This blog has previously argued for taking a more conciliatory approach to Iran (see Conservative Muslims May Be Right and Influencing Iran). In the wake of Monday's revelations from the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, The Washington Post is also now suggesting America should open direct talks with Tehran:
Negotiating will appear at first to be a sign of weakness. The Iranians could use talks to exploit fissures between the United States and its allies, and within the U.S. political system.Going on, the author Robert Kagan notes, "The United States simultaneously contained the Soviet Union, negotiated with the Soviet Union and pressed for political change in the Soviet Union -- supporting dissidents, communicating directly to the Russian people through radio and other media, and holding the Soviet government to account under such international human rights agreements as the Helsinki Accords. There's no reason the United States cannot talk to Iran while beefing up containment in the region and pressing for change within Iran."
But there is a good case for negotiations. Many around the world and in the United States have imagined that the obstacle to improved Iranian behavior has been America's unwillingness to talk. This is a myth, but it will hamper American efforts now and for years to come. Eventually, the United States will have to take the plunge, as it has with so many adversaries throughout its history.
Whether the Bush administration proves to be "smart and creative enough" to adopt such an approach could affect us all.