The Iranian Letter

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written a letter to President Bush, and it presents a somewhat perplexing question. Let me frame it by quoting from the Washington Post story about it. First:

“This letter isn’t it,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Associated Press. “This letter is not the place that one would find an opening to engage on the nuclear issue or anything of the sort. It isn’t addressing the issues that we’re dealing with in a concrete way. . . . It is most assuredly not a proposal.”


[John R.] Bolton [the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations] dismissed the prospects of U.S. negotiations with Iran, saying a slew of diplomatic initiatives by other countries aimed at stalling Iran’s nuclear advances over the past three years had failed to bear fruit.

Now, I’ve read the letter, and Condi is basically correct in that the letter does not offer any specific bargaining terms or even starting points for dialogue. It meanders from point to point, mainly accusing the U.S. of being bad and/or evil, and extolling the virtues of Islam as a way of guiding one’s life.

At the same time, I don’t see any justification for Bolton’s defeatist attitude about diplomacy. So what if other countries haven’t been able to solve the problem? We’re the United States, and we should be able to apply our unique strengths and ingenuity to find a good solution.

So Ahmadinejad’s letter isn’t the starting point. Let’s make one. I am assuming everyone understands that a war with Iran is a very, very bad idea. There are lots of ways to approach the question that do not include war. Let’s debate those ideas.

My jaded side can’t help but acknowledge that Bush must see the opportunity to raise his approval by starting a war. We ought not let that happen. Why should American troops die for his political needs?

2 Replies to “The Iranian Letter”

  1. “My jaded side can’t help but acknowledge that Bush must see the opportunity to raise his approval by starting a war.”

    …because the last one is doing great things for him?

    And as for John Bolton, I’d prefer to go with what he actually said rather than the Post’s suspect paraphrasing of his words:

    “”We don’t have anything to say to Iran until they give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons,” said John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “Iranians are always interested in talking right before everyone puts the squeeze on them….

    “I don’t know what offer they would want to make, but it wouldn’t be surprising. It would fit the paradigm of their activity before and then once the squeeze lets up a little bit, back they go to enrichment, back they go to perfecting their conversion technology, back they go to the pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Bolton said.

    Nothing very arguable (or defeatist) there…As UN ambassador, Mr. Bolton is well aware that Russia and China are not wholly with the US, France (France!!) and GB on this…any negotiations by the US as the US will be by Secretary Rice, not John Bolton and you’ve read her comments.

    We’ve made a starting point – no uranium enrichment – no nuclear weapons; not a lot of wiggle room there, esp. if you’re Israel and the guy is making promises it increasingly looks like he can make.

    …at any rate, welcome back from your hiatus.

  2. Thank you. It is good to be back.

    Honestly, I am not precisely sure what to do with Iran. They are crazy, and crazy folks shouldn’t get to play with nuclear weapons.

    On the other hand, I don’t see us as being able to project credible threats of force there. To undertake a ground war would require the draft, and there is not sufficient popular support for that, or else air campaigns that would accomplish little but temporary setbacks.

    Given that, I think we must negotiate, even knowing that they may be trying to pull a fast one. It seems the best move we can make.

Comments are closed.