An opening with Iran

In a dramatic shift in its strategy toward Iran, the U.S. plans to join Europe, Russia, and China in seeking direct talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

The Obama administration has signaled a dramatic shift in U.S. strategy toward Iran, suggesting that the U.S. is prepared to negotiate without preconditions on Iran’s nuclear program. Previously, the U.S. demanded that Iran halt uranium enrichment before the U.S. would join official talks. Now, the U.S. says it will join direct talks with Iran that Europe, Russia, and China are seeking to convene to break the deadlock over Iran’s nuclear program. “We believe that pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues with Iran that affect our interests and the interests of the world makes sense,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In an unusually conciliatory response, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that Iran was open to talks and was preparing a “new package” of diplomatic initiatives. Iran has long denied Western claims that it is building a nuclear weapon, insisting that its nuclear program is for electricity. Ahmadinejad did not address that issue, but said Iran “may forget the past and start a new era.”

Nobody should expect the mullahs to suddenly change their saber-rattling ways, said Jay Bookman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But considering the alternative—the bellicose Iran marching headstrong into its nuclear future—diplomacy is “certainly worth a try.” If nothing else, “it will put the onus on Iran, perhaps making it easier to build international support for sanctions” if Iran refuses to swear off nukes.

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Iran has no reason to change course, said Joe Klein in Time.com. Tehran has rightly concluded “that having a bomb enhances Iran’s national security.” For proof, they need only look to the two other members of the old Axis of Evil: “North Korea developed a bomb and hasn’t been attacked; Saddam Hussein didn’t, and he is gone.”

It’s delusional to think we can charm the Iranians into submission, said Michael Rubin in National Review Online. But even Obama must know this. So there’s really only one way to read his decision to drop the precondition on uranium enrichment. Apparently, his administration has “made a policy decision to allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to become a nuclear weapons–capable state.”

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