Secretary of State Rice sees "no point" in talking to Iran until they give up their nuclear program. She's much smarter than I am, and she happens to also be a better piano player, but I have to disagree with this approach. I think the point to restoring diplomatic ties with them would be to at least to see if we can work out some kind of agreement that could make Iraq safer. It seems difficult, even with 155,000 troops to provide security throughout the country and stop the flow of weapons and financial support from the long border with Iran and the Iranian institutions doing business with Iraqis.
I would like to see Iran give up their nuclear efforts, too, but why would thy do that just to talk to us? They don't want to talk to us, they want to talk about us. Ahmadinejad loves to rant against the Great Satan, it's a great distraction from the poor job he's done as President. To sit down and work out a compromise with the United States would upset his last group of supporters, so it's not something he would be willing to give up his hard-earned nuclear ambitions for. In the common diplomatic metaphor of carrots and sticks, giving up nuclear is a tough stick, and talking to the U.S. is a rusty old pipe painted to look like a carrot. So, it's not going to happen. The Bush Administration will talk tough, and Iran will continue both their nuclear program and their support of Shi'a militias in Iraq. The voices of reason such as Secretary of Defense Gates and the Iraq Study Group will be ignored, and the policy that failed in North Korea and is failing in Iran now will continue.
Meanwhile, America is losing the support of a country that actually could help end Iran's nuclear attempts: Russia.
America is making every effort to bring former Soviet states into NATO and set up strategic weapons defense systems in Russia's backyard. Tensions with Russia strengthen their bond with Iran, and make it less likely for Russia to join in the kind of sanctions that may actually stop the nuclear program. As determined as Iran's pro-nuclear leaders are, if angry Iranian people turn against them and demand electricity throughout the day and the opportunity to trade with wealthy nations, we may see a change. It would be a political setback for hard-liners in Iran and neo-cons in America who say it isn't possible. A little compromising with Russia is America's stick, and getting Iran to actually give up their nuclear program is the carrot.
With that issue dealt with internationally, America is available for participation in three-way talks with Iran and Iraq. Right now, it's just two-way. The Prime Minister of Iraq is in Iran right now. He welcomed his Shi'a brother Ahmadinejad to Iraq a little while ago, and the two neighboring countries that fought a bloody war over twenty years ago and now forming close ties. If America doesn't want a seat at the table, then we'll just have to wait and see what they agree to.
Since we are deeply invested in Iraq, and have sacrificed thousands of our soldiers over there, we should do whatever we can to produce the best outcome and honor the efforts made by our bravest men and women. It's no time for saber-rattling or political stands, we need solutions, and finding a way to work with Iran is more useful and less difficult than talking tough and starting another war.