In early April, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on his visit to the U.S:
Based on reports that there are apparently talks taking place arranged by the American ambassador in Baghdad with the Iranian leadership about the situation in Iraq, I advised that the topics should not be limited just to Iraq but expanded to include one of the most urgent problems confronting us all: the suspicion that Iran, the Iranian leadership, is pursuing secret atomic weapons programs.Following are new calls for direct U.S.-Iranian negotiations by a high-ranking German parliamentarian, six former foreign ministers, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and some criticism of these suggestions by the Wall Street Journal:
Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats visited Washington. Reuters writes:
The United States has said all options, including the threat of military action, are on the table against Iran, but Polenz said the time was not right for a military strike, especially as Tehran was at least four or more years away from building a nuclear bomb. "I think it is seen as a non-useful step," he said of the threat of military action.
In addition, the United States should speak to Iran in a bid to ease the crisis, echoing calls even among influential Republicans in the United States for the Bush administration to hold direct talks with Tehran. "I have been trying to convince my American friends for eight to 10 years to come to a more direct relationship with Tehran," he said.
Moreover, former foreign ministers Madeleine Albright of the United States, Joschka Fischer of Germany, Jozias van Aartsen of the Netherlands, Bronislaw Geremek of Poland, Hubert Védrine of France and Lydia Polfer of Luxembourg urge the U.S. government in the International Herald Tribune and in papers across Europe to negotiate with Iran, because:
Even if American air power succeeded in disrupting for some time Tehran's ability to develop nuclear weapons, Iran could well find others means - including terrorism - to retaliate against Western interests in the region and elsewhere. Such a unilateral use of force by Washington would find little support within Europe and would further undermine trans-Atlantic relations just as they were recovering from the divisions created by the invasion of Iraq.
Robert Hunter, a senior adviser at the RAND Corporation, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO from 1993 to 1998 and husband of a leading Iran expert, writes in the Washington Post that the U.S. has negotiated with enemies before and a airstrikes would help the Iranian regime.
Summits with the opposition are a great American tradition. President Richard Nixon went to Beijing even though China was aiding North Vietnam in its fight against U.S. forces. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the Soviet Union "an evil empire" but still negotiated agreements with it on arms control and other issues. And the Bush administration talks directly to North Korea, perhaps the most dangerous and delusional regime in the world. America has never limited itself to talking only with its friends abroad. (...)
The United States has given security guarantees to North Korea -- a declared nuclear power -- but has refused to put that possibility in play with the Iranians. Much is made of the two years of negotiations that Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union have conducted with Tehran. Yet America specifically barred those nations from introducing the idea of potential U.S. security guarantees. That amounts to trying to build bricks without straw, and it doomed European efforts.
A U.S. attack on Iran might temporarily stop the country from going nuclear, but would be the beginning rather than the end of conflict with Iran. The Iranians are a people who pull together when under threat or attack -- very much like Americans. Iran's clerical leadership, however much despised by so many of its people, is not set to topple at the first whiff of grapeshot. Instead, it could count on consolidating its rule -- just as the Ayatollah Khomenei a quarter century ago used Saddam Hussein's invasion to solidify his power.
The Wall Street Journal rejects a "Grand Bargain":
The "international community" and U.S. foreign policy establishment are likely to press the Administration to pursue what's being called a "Grand Bargain": direct talks between Washington and Tehran leading to an end to the U.S. embargo and a resumption of diplomatic relations in exchange for an Iranian promise to abandon its nuclear program. The bargain idea has just got a boost from Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Talking to the mullahs, he recently told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, "would be useful," adding that the Administration needed to "make more headway diplomatically." (...)
In the same way, nothing Iran has done in recent years offers any indication it would honor such a bargain. It has consistently lied to the IAEA, trashed its agreements with Europe, openly flouted a U.N. Security Council resolution, provided explosives to insurgents in Iraq, developed ballistic missiles of increasing range, selected a president with apocalyptic religious impulses, and engaged in vitriolic anti-American and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
This is not the behavior of an ordinary state--a "status quo power," in diplomatic jargon--that aims to "normalize" its position in the world through diplomacy. Rather, they are the acts of a revolutionary regime seeking to spread its ideology and power by force and intimidation. Most of all, the U.S. should think very carefully about making deals with a despotic regime that enjoys the support of only 20% of its own people, at least if our aim is to see the regime toppled peacefully from within.