Saturday, August 02, 2008

We should "talk" to Iran because "It's working" with North Korea?!

I can't believe that anyone is so naive, but Ted Carpenter is. You'd think someone smart enough to be at Cato wouldn't have such foolish trust, but we can now rank Carpenter with Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright and Jimmy Carter.
Washington made little progress with the North Koreans until the United States ended its refusal to enter negotiations before they ceased all violations of the 1994 agreement, which was supposed to freeze their nuclear program. Eventually, the U.S. succumbed to pressure from China and East Asian allies and agreed to multilateral negotiations in the form of the six-party talks. But it has only been in the past six months or so that the United States has engaged in direct negotiations with North Korea.
North Korea made it perfectly clear last year: after the U.S. alone gave it millions of tons of food "aid" and countless joules of fuel, it was lying to us for 11 years while it pursued a nuclear weapons program. Why should we believe for a second that it's being straight with us now?

If we have the same success "talking" with Iran as we've had with North Korea, then God help us.
These talks were crucial to the breakthrough that has taken place, and they have involved far more than a narrow focus on the nuclear issue. Washington and Pyongyang are now considering such matters as the normalization of diplomatic and economic relations, the removal of North Korea from the State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism, and a treaty to formally end the Korean War.
There's no breakthrough. Time and time again, U.S. diplomats have been suckered into "negotiations" that are merely the other side's way of stalling.
A U.S. diplomatic initiative involving Iran would require similar characteristics. Direct, high-level negotiations between Washington and Tehran — far more rigorous than the sporadic U.S.-Iranian talks on Iraq — would be imperative. A useful step would be for President Bush to appoint a prominent special envoy, perhaps former secretary of state James Baker, to represent the United States.
Iran loves this: it will buy them more time to build more centrifuges and acquire more technology.
Moreover, those negotiations would have to concern more than Iran's nuclear program or the future of Iraq. Indeed, they would need to encompass the entire range of U.S.-Iranian relations. Topics would have to include removal of U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions and the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, as well as the explicit end of Tehran's quest to build nuclear weapons.
Oh, and Iran will gladly renounce terrorism, including disarming and pulling funds from Hezbollah and other groups? I'm sure it will also offer to pay reparations to Western victims and their families.

I won't hold my breath for any results. Here's what will happen: o. Once sanctions are lifted, Iran will only appear to play nice. The red carpet will be rolled out in Tehran for any U.S. ambassador, and tokens of "friendship" will be exchanged. But behind the scenes, nothing will have changed.
One should have no illusions about such an initiative. The obstacles to success would be even greater than they have been with North Korea. Whereas North Korea is a small, impoverished state, Iran is a midsize power with considerable political and economic clout. And although Russia helps Iran with its nuclear program, it lacks the patronage power that China has exerted on its client North Korea.
Carpenter harbors his own illusion, namely this foolish trust that Iran will somehow play nice. He in fact debunks himself here, admitting that Iran has considerably greater means than North Korea to get what it wants. Why, then, should it bother "negotiating" when it can continue the status quo?
The nature of a resolution of the nuclear issue would also likely be different. North Korea has (at least in principle) agreed to give up its entire nuclear program in exchange for concessions from the United States, Japan and South Korea. It is unlikely that Tehran would agree to such a comprehensive de-nuclearization. Washington may have to accept that reality and focus on achieving sufficient international safeguards to ensure that material from a nuclear power program was not diverted to weapons production.
This is what you get when a libertarian tries to be "pragmatic" and accept "compromise." Compromise is great for the other side, and bad for you.
All of these obstacles are daunting, but if Washington does not adopt a strategy similar to its recent approach toward North Korea, it will soon face highly unpleasant options: accepting Iran as a nuclear-weapons state or launching military strikes to prevent that result.

It's worth trying diplomacy before we reach that point.
Or perhaps there are more choices than such stark ones, did Carpenter ever consider that?

What we do know is that if a neighbor once kidnapped your children, and this neighbor still funds groups that have killed some of your other children, and this neighbor has been perpetually hell-bent on acquiring an armory of assault rifles, then no matter how "reformed" he becomes, you should never trust him with so much as a Derringer. Maybe he can't blow your house to smithereens as he'd like, but one day you'll find yourself shot in the ass.

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