Friday, November 09, 2007

Hagel continues to urge diplomacy with Iran

A few weeks ago, Steve Clemons revealed that Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) had urged President Bush in a private letter to engage Iran in direct, unconditional diplomacy over its nuclear program.

Clemons had obtained a copy of the letter, which read in part:

An approach such as this would strengthen our ability across the board to deal with Iran. Our friends and allies would be more confident to stand with us if we seek to increase pressure, including tougher sanctions on Iran. It could create a historic new dynamic in US-Iran relations, in part forcing the Iranians to react to the possibility of better relations with the West. We should be prepared that any dialogue process with Iran will take time, and we should continue all efforts, as you have, to engage Iran from a position of strength.

We should not wait to consider the option of bilateral talks until all other diplomatic options are exhausted. At that point, it could well be too late.
Now, Hagel is going public with his appeal for bilateral talks, and (not very subtly) mocking Bush's approach so far.

[Via ThinkProgress]

CNN: Senator, do you think that the U.S. can talk Iran out of getting a nuclear weapon, especially if they’re as close as to getting one as [former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton] contends?

HAGEL: Well, our current strategy has been working so well, don’t you think?

The fact is, the Middle East and the world is more combustible, more complicated, more dangerous today than it has ever been, and it’s mainly because somehow we’ve gotten it in our minds that great powers don’t engage. Somehow, diplomacy doesn’t include talking to people.
As I did earlier, I commend Hagel for his courage in characterizing the president's strategy for what it is: foolishness.

But as I did then, I must also point out the main flaw in Hagel's reasoning. He appears to assume that Bush's goal is to avoid war with Iran. All the available evidence indicates that Bush's goal is war with Iran.

Be that as it may, it is encouraging to hear someone arguing passionately for diplomacy, rather than for pre-emptive nuclear war. It is tragic that in today's political environment, one can stand out simply by being sane.