Talking with Tehran

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Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal published Michael Ledeen’s retrospective and critique of American negotiations with Iran (subscribers only). In the photo above that accompanies Ledeen’s column online, “U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, first left, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, top center, and Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi, first right, during security talks between U.S. and Iranian officials in Baghdad Monday, May 28, 2007.”
Ledeen begins with the observation that every administration since Ayatollah Khomeini’s seizure of power in 1979 has negotiated with the Iranians. The mullahs are always happy to talk. Unfortunately, Ledeen notes: “Nothing positive has ever come of it[.]” This despite the implication of Messrs. Baker and Hamilton that talking with Iran is a novelty that holds the key to peace in the Middle East. Here are Ledeen’s concluding paragraphs, picking up the story in 1996 and bringing it up to date:

In 1996, the Iranians were up to their necks in the terror attack against Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Still, we pursued the mirage of a deal with our enemies. In the final months of the Clinton administration, former Spanish President Felipe Gonzales traveled secretly to Tehran to explore the possibilities of a new relationship. Like all the others, he made no progress.
The current administration has maintained the pattern. Despite a considerable volume of criticism of the mullahs, and open warnings of undefined consequences if Iran did not become more cooperative, various American officials and the usual private emissaries have explored the possibilities of better relations.
In 2001 and early 2002 we negotiated the future of Afghanistan after the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, and although some diplomats praised Iranian “cooperation,” military intelligence had hard evidence that the mullahs had sent killers into Afghanistan to attack our troops. Meetings were subsequently held with Iranian representatives in Geneva and Cyprus, and just last September, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Mr. Gonzales to try again. He returned to Tehran, and emerged empty-handed.
The current negotiations are thus part of a well-established pattern. If anything, there is far less reason for optimism than in the past, since our knowledge of Tehran’s war against us — notably in Iraq and Afghanistan — is broader and deeper than before. The Europeans’ failure to make any progress at all in their diplomatic efforts to convince Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons program should further convince an honest observer that the mullahs intend to build an atomic arsenal and use it against us and our allies.
As Jonathan Swift put it, you cannot reason a man out of something that he did not reason his way into. The Iranian war against the U.S. rests upon fanatical convictions, and Tehran has no interest in resolving it at a conference table.

It is a conclusion that is backed by a dismaying amount of evidence.
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