Talk Isn't Cheap with Iran

[Wall Street Journal] Michael B. Oren and Seth Robinson - What would be the objective of U.S.-Iranian talks - to moderate Iranian behavior and renew Iranian-American relations or, more broadly, to recognize a new strategic order in the Middle East? In addition to nuclear issues, American interlocutors, should they undertake talks, must also address the question of Iranian expansionism. Through its Hizbullah and Hamas proxies, Iran has gained dominance over Lebanon and Gaza, and through its Baathist and Mahdist allies, has extended its influence through Syria and Iraq. An Iranian threat looms over the Persian Gulf financial centers and beyond, to the European cities within Iranian missile range. No attempt has yet been made to induce Iran to roll back or even curtail the export of its violent revolution. Recognizing Iranian ascendancy means legitimizing Hamas and Hizbullah while weakening America's allies in Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. In addition, any American offer to dialogue with Iran is liable to be interpreted as a sign of American weakness, and not only in Tehran. Public opinion throughout the area will conclude that America has at last surrendered to the reality of Iranian rule. The damage to America's regional, if not global, influence may prove irreversible. Furthermore, dialoguing with Iran presents the even graver danger that Iran will use it as camouflage to complete its nuclear ambitions. Even if Iran agreed to halt the enrichment process, it might replicate the North Korean model: negotiate with the U.S., agree to suspend nuclear activities, then renew them at the first opportunity. Any negotiations with Iran must be time-limited and accompanied by intensified sanctions and a credible military threat. The U.S. can communicate with Iran, but as a power and not a supplicant, and with leverage as well as words.

2008-10-02 01:00:00

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