Last week, the Bush administration agreed to talk with Iran about Iraq. Iran has been arming Iraqi Shiite militia and some insurgent groups. The administration’s objectives will include bringing an end to that practice and, more broadly, ending sectarian violence by Iranian-supported militia.
My sense is that such talks are a bad idea. Iran is involved in Iraq because it perceives an interest in supporting our enemies there. To talk Iran into changing course, we would have to offer it an incentive larger than the one that’s pushing it to cause trouble now. The only such incentive I can imagine is backing away from our efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. But a nuclear Iran would have far more ability to cause mischief in the region than Iran has now. Our top priority, even ahead of curbing current Iranian mischief making in Iraq, must be to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.