The Washington Post (thanks to JE) says that “it’s easy to see the potential advantage to Iran of opening negotiations with the United States on Iraq.” And that is undeniably true. What is more difficult to see is the potential advantage to the United States of opening such negotiations with Iran. It seems to me to be nothing more than a concession that our Shi’ite-leaning policy in Iraq (inspired not by a predilection for Shi’ites but by an unshakeable attachment to the one-man-one-vote idea of democracy, which inevitably favored the Shi’a majority) has played into the hands of the Iranians, and now we have no choice but to acknowledge them as a player in Iraq.
IT’S EASY to see the potential advantage to Iran of opening negotiations with the United States on Iraq. The sudden announcement by Iran’s national security chief Thursday that Tehran would accept an offer of dialogue made months ago by the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad came as members of the U.N. Security Council were meeting to discuss a council statement about the Iranian nuclear program.
That statement could be the first in an escalating series of steps to force Tehran to give up the enrichment of uranium and fully cooperate with international inspectors. Preventing such diplomatic action has been Iran’s main aim since its illegal nuclear program was discovered in 2004; the failure to stop the issue from reaching the Security Council has prompted some visible handwringing and backbiting among the mullahs.
By drawing the Bush administration into talks about Iraq, the Iranians give themselves a shot at splintering or distracting the fragile coalition that may be forming in New York. Already Iranian officials are speaking openly about the possibility that any discussions would expand into the broader security dialogue that Tehran has long coveted with the United States. In Iraq — where American soldiers are dying from Iranian-supplied roadside bombs and sectarian violence by Iranian-supported militias is steadily mounting — the Islamic regime has a tacit and sinister offer to make: Back down in New York, and the carnage in Baghdad might just drop off. Even the appearance that the Bush administration might be considering such a trade-off would worsen the situation in Iraq and wreck a year of careful and mostly effective anti-proliferation diplomacy.