Obama's new approach on Iran
It's hardly heresy for the US to talk to its enemies.
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Presumably there will be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who once warned that the US would obliterate Iran if it nuked Israel. There is Robert Gates, to be retained as secretary of Defense. He has had harsh words for Iran's meddling in Iraq, but favors diplomacy and "soft power" before military action.Skip to next paragraph
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There is William Burns, a key figure in the tough negotiations on nuclear disarmament with Communist North Korea. Mrs. Clinton is expected to retain him as under-secretary of State. Dennis Ross, longtime Middle East adviser, is expected to get the Iran portfolio. None of these are apostles of appeasement.
Discerning Tehran's readiness to negotiate is, as a headline in a piece by Mr. Ajami once put it, like going "back to the Iranian bazaar." But President Ahmadinejad did send Obama a rare congratulatory letter upon his election. There are signs of political unrest in Iran. Falling oil prices have wrought havoc with the economy. Elections are due in June, and Mohammad Khatami, a leading reformist who earlier served two terms as president, is threatening to run against Ahmadinejad. This could be the time for Tehran to test a new American administration with its price for a more cooperative Iran.
The Iranians might want to probe just exactly what, if any, long-term secret understandings there may be about the US military presence in Iraq.
They might want to discuss what "covert action" the US has under way to sabotage an Iranian nuclear weapons program. As reported by The New York Times, Mr. Bush had informed the Israelis of the covert action when he declined to supply Israel with materiel for an airstrike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Obama could offer relief from current sanctions. There could be unfreezing of blocked Iranian assets. There could be offers of economic cooperation. There could be diplomatic recognition. There could be cultural and sporting exchanges. The US admitted the Iranian national basketball team last year for games in Texas and Utah. Washington could encourage a major American symphony orchestra to visit Tehran. Iranian artists would in return be welcomed to the US.
Obama campaigned on a platform of "change." It may now be time to see whether there is any change in US relations with a country that has widespread ability to spread war or peace in the Middle East.