Thursday, November 01, 2007

"I write to urge you to consider pursuing direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So wrote Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to President Bush in an as-yet-unreleased letter -- copied to Rice, Gates, and Hadley -- that was passed to Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, where it is reprinted in full. Here's part of it:

I am increasingly concerned, however, that this diplomatic strategy is stalling. There are growing differences with our international partners. Concerns remain that the United States' actual objectives is regime change in Iran, not a change in Iran's behavior. Prospects for further action in the UN Security Council have grown dim, and we appear increasingly reliant on a single-track effort to expand financial pressure on Iran outside of the UN Security Council. Iran's actions, both on its nuclear program and in Iraq, are unchanged. Iran's leaders appear increasingly confident in their positions vis-a-vis the United States.

Unless there is a strategic shift, I believe we will find ourselves in a dangerous and increasingly isolated position in the coming months. I do not see how the collective actions that we are now taking will produce the results that we seek. If this continues, our ability to sustain a united international front will weaken as countries grow uncertain over our motives and unwilling to risk open confrontation with Iran, and we are left with fewer and fewer policy options.

*****

An approach such as this [that is, direct talks] would strengthen our ability across the board to deal with Iran. Our friends and allies would be more confident to stand with us if we seek to increase pressure, including tougher sanctions on Iran. It could create a historic new dynamic in US-Iran relations, in part forcing the Iranians to react to the possibility of better relations with the West. We should be prepared that any dialogue process with Iran will take time, and we should continue all efforts, as you have, to engage Iran from a position of strength.

Hagel, whom I regard as a man of enormous credibility on such matters (see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), is absolutely right. The warmongers around Bush, such as Cheney (above all), will no doubt refuse to follow his advice -- they will take it and reject it without much thought -- but their saber-rattling is dangerous, reckless, and deeply irresponsible (see here and here). They want war (now) not just without pursuing possibly successful alternatives to war first, as Hagel suggests here, but seemingly without any regard for the consequences, or at least without adequately (by which I mean: honestly) assessing the likely consequences. They may be delusional, but they are certainly stupid, and they are guiding their country and much of the rest of the world, notably the volatile Middle East, toward disaster.

The war with Iran may already be underway, but maybe, just maybe, there is time to reverse course. But that would require the recipients of Hagel's letter acting sincerely on his advice and initiating open and honest dialogue with Iran in good faith.

There is no reason to be confident they will do anything of the sort.

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