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Iran Puzzle: Negotiate or Fight

Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb - which everyone agrees is bad. What should America do? Should it return to its previous belligerence? Or should it work together with the Europeans, who are trying to negotiate with the Iranians? Many lost hope for negotiations when Iran refused the latest European offer. Prematurely. The Russians jumped in at the last minute and told the Iranians to think it over. There is no reason for America to be so tough. It’s better to negotiate than to fight.

Bush's confrontational streak caused him early in his administration to talk of the "axis of evil," which included Iraq, Iran and North Korea. We've seen how Bush followed up with his attack on Iraq in order to bring about "regime change." The result has been the current chaos and devastation in Iraq.

As far as Iran is concerned, it has increased its influence in Iraq via the Shiite clerics who have many ties to the ayatollahs in Iran. We stand in danger of building a theocracy in Iraq rather than a democracy.

Iran, worried about being attacked by America, decided that it would mount a nuclear bomb program. Like North Korea, it figured that a WMD program is the best protection against being attacked by U.S.

Yes, according to this article by Michael Schwartz, Bush had Iran (and also North Korea) within his bellicose sight some time ago:

"According to Washington Post columnist William Arkin, the official U.S. strategic plan (formally known as CONPLAN 8022-02) completed in November 2003 authorized 'a preemptive and offensive strike capability against Iran and North Korea.'"
When Iran declared it needed its nuclear program, all Iranians, not merely the hardliners, were for it. Suddenly, the reformers were no longer on our side. They joined the hardliners in defiance of America. What was America to do? Declare another war?

Lucky that France, Germany and Britain began negotiating with the Iranians. After many objections, the Bush administration finally agreed to allow the Europeans to negotiate. When Iran withdrew from discussions and said it would continue with its nuclear program, Bush was getting ready with fighting words.

Just then, the Russians jumped in. It seems that everybody likes negotiations but belligerent Bush.

The Russians need to maintain their economic ties with both Europe and Iran. So they asked Iran to reconsider, and this is what Iran is doing. According to Aleksei Malashenko of Moscow's Carnegie Center:

"There are two main goals here. And these two main goals contradict each other. The first one is of course maintaining cooperation with Iran while at the same time ensuring that this cooperation does not spoil Moscow's image in Europe. So, it's going to be very hard to achieve, but I think Moscow will try."

I have no idea how all this will turn out. But negotiating is better than fighting. I think America should join more actively in the negotiations. If we tried talking rather than killing we could win a lot more battles in the "war on terror."

There is no Iran puzzle. We must negotiate, not fight.

Posted by Paul Siegel at August 10, 2005 6:37 PM