On Tuesday during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about the progress of the Iraq war Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama suggested once again that we should implement a diplomatic surge that would include talking to Iran about the situation in Iraq. Putting aside Iraq for a minute, because Iran’s meddling in Iraq stems from the same reason why they are developing a nuclear program, I think that it is fair to ask whether Obama is right to want to talk to Iran?
In my opinion there really isn’t a choice here, it is not a matter of wanting to talk to Iran, but having to talk to Iran. The Iranians learned from N. Korea that the fastest way to get the U.S. to sit down and talk is to work on developing nuclear weapons. Thanks to the blunder that is the Iraq war, the fragile geo-political balance of the Middle East has been shattered. Iran is now the dominant power in the region. Once the U.S. leaves Iraq, there will be no one there to keep Iran in check, if you would describe what we are doing right now as keeping anything in check in Iraq.
However, the American presence in Iraq does provide one advantage. While U.S. troops are there, the Iranians are always going to fear an invasion. This fear is also what is fueling their nuclear ambitions. The next U.S. president will have a window of about 18 months before the troops are fully out of Iraq where both sides can sit down and talk. Iran does support terrorism, but this wouldn’t be the first time that the U.S. government has sat down with a nation that engages in this activity. In fact, most of our so called “friends” in the region have done many of the same things as Iran, so let’s please put the self-righteous bellowing away.
What the next president has to weigh is whether it worse to sit down and talk to Iran, or do nothing and let them go nuclear? Notice that I didn’t mention military action because to all except the ill educated, and conspiracy theorists that option is off the table, America currently does not, and will not for several years, have the capacity to attack Iran. What people who want to attack Iran seem to forget is that this is a nation that has 15.6 million men who are fit for military service. The 140,000 U.S. troops in the region would not be even close to enough. Nothing short of a military draft would be required for the U.S. to invade Iran. Iran is not Iraq. It would take more than some bombing and a skeleton staff to get the job done.
As we learned from the resounding failure of the Bush administration’s hard line stance with N. Korea, a democracy can’t out hard line an authoritarian government. Conservatives, who like to talk tough about Iran, don’t want to face the reality that negotiation is the best way out of this situation for everyone. What the Iranians want more than anything are assurances that the United States won’t invade them. What the U.S. wants is for Iran to open their nuclear program to inspectors. If the inspectors determine that weapons are being built, then the program must be halted.
Other politicians are worried about looking strong or weak on the issue, but it appears that Obama sees the situation for what it is. America’s options are limited here. For the United States, a nuclear Iran is the worst possible outcome. I don’t think that any president should roll out the red carpet for Iran, nor should they want to form a close diplomatic relationship, but on this one issue, discussion and diplomacy are the best options. We tried to win in the Middle East with bluster and bullets, and now it is time for a different approach. There is too much at stake for America not to try.