The Obama administration will take part directly in international negotiations with Iran aimed at ending Teheran’s nuclear program. It is the latest move in a shift in U. S. policy toward Iran, a very positive step toward direct engagement with Iran that President Obama promised during his campaign for president, a step that merits strong approval.
This expression of conciliation contrasts sharply with U.S. policy since 1979 and especially with the belligerence of the Bush administration, a belligerence that has not inhibited Iran but has alienated U.S. allies in Europe. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “There is nothing more important than trying to convince Iran to cease its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon”. However, Iran has been suspected of developing the nuclear bomb for at least 20 years and has insisted that its centrifuges are enriching uranium only for peaceful use. As Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said at the United Nations in 2007: “The world does not need to prove to Iran that Iran is building an atomic bomb. Iran must persuade the world that it does not want the bomb.” Yet, Mohammed El-Baradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency that monitors Iran’s facilities, does not accuse Iran of bomb making capability.
The situation is complicated by widespread disapproval of Iranian human rights violations, its combination of religion and politics, as well as the insults directed at Israel, Jews and the West. The Iranians justify their conduct by reminding the world that the United States and its allies supported Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran, 1980-1988, that cost Iran a million lives. On April 3, the London Times printed an article headlined, “Only Obama can save Iran from Israeli bombs”, citing the hawkish Netanyahu government in Israel. When Netanyahu travels to Washington next month, Iran is expected to dominate the conversations. Israel will not attack Iran without tacit approval from America – we hope. But time is running out. This could become Obama’s biggest challenge as he assumes the mantle of keeper of the peace.
President Obama deserves credit for putting the U.S. on the diplomatic track with Iran. He may have been influenced by the financial crisis in the U.S… As David Wessel put it in the Wall Street Journal on April 9, “For 15 years, the American people have been told they could have it all: costly wars, expansion of Medicare to cover drugs, health insurance for those without, more money for schools-and tax cuts for most of them. They deserve to be told that they can’t have it all in the future.”
Apparently, Obama has ruled out another costly war and will concentrate on the desperately needed domestic programs. Two unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are two too many. Obama will avoid the third war, gaining his objectives by diplomacy and soft power.