U.S. has nothing to gain from dialogue with Iran

December 18, 2006|By Victor Davis Hanson

One of the many bizarre recommendations in the recent report from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group is the call to talk with Iran. A formal dialogue with the Iranian leadership is, for a number of reasons, as misguided as it is amoral.

In these frightening times, as we face aggressive dictatorships, our guides still should be Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt - not the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and Joseph Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, who, leading up to 1939, thought good could come out of talking with the Nazis.

First, the Iranian leadership goes beyond the usual boilerplate anti-Israel, anti-Semitic claptrap of the region. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has serially denied the Holocaust while promising the absolute destruction of Israel. Various mullahs have characterized Israel as a "one-bomb state," implying a single Iranian nuclear bomb could destroy it.

Why should we give stature to and empower a theocracy that apes the hatred of the Third Reich?

Second, in matters of nuclear proliferation, Iran demands increased vigilance, not dialogue. It possesses enough oil-based energy to meet its domestic needs for more than 200 years and thus has no logical reason - other than for weaponry - to develop exorbitantly costly enriched uranium.

Plus, Iran could rather easily threaten stability in the region - and thus the accessibility of most of the world's oil reserves.

Third, there is a long history of failed talks with, and appeasement of, the current Iranian government. Britain, France and Germany "dialogued" constantly and offered concessions while Tehran raced ahead with more centrifuges. The loquacious United Nations experienced the same frustration.

Fourth, we have a deep misunderstanding of the nature and aims of the Iranian regime. Despite praise from former President Bill Clinton, Iran's "liberal" plebiscites were never democratic. Before 9/11, Hezbollah, with Iran's help, had killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization. No wonder President Ahmadinejad now asks crowds to envision "a world without America."

The Iraqi Study Group says Iran also worries about spillover chaos in Iraq. That is laughable. The opposite is true. The present killing and violence in Iraq divert American attention away from its effort to go nuclear and its interests in Lebanon. As Yahya Rahim Safavi, the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, gleefully put it, "The Americans are sunk in the quagmire of Afghanistan and Iraq, and there is no way for them [to move either] forward or backward." So, if Iran finds benefits in an unstable Iraq, why would it wish to play a constructive role?

Instead of worrying about negotiating with Iran, we need to be primarily preparing for the awful day when Iran can arm its missiles with nuclear weapons. President Bush should keep pressing for tough, U.N.-endorsed, global trade sanctions against Iran for violating the United Nations' resolutions. And instead of talking to murderous mullahs, we should reach out more to Iranian democratic dissidents.

Ultimately, only collapsing the world oil price to below $30 a barrel can stop Iran's ability to fund terrorists, buy costly weapons and develop its nuclear program. We can achieve that through increased domestic drilling, energy conservation and alternative energy.

In the short term, America must focus on rethinking its tactics to stabilize Iraq. Iraqi democracy as well as consensual governments in surrounding Afghanistan and nearby Lebanon are Tehran's worst nightmares - because these are true revolutionary movements that might resonate with Iran's unhappy youth.

To deal with Iran, America should smile, lower the rhetoric, keep our powder dry - and maintain our distance.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His column appears in The Sun on Mondays. His e-mail is author@victorhanson.com.

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