The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency indicates that while there is still no solid evidence that Iran is actively developing nuclear weapons, the possibility is still “a matter of serious concern.” The reason is that Iran is still playing cat-and-mouse with the IAEA in ways that cannot help but arouse suspicion.
This is hardly a reason to resume rattling sabers, as some Americans who still haven’t figured out that Iran would be a much more daunting military challenge than Iraq ever was, seem to desire. Indeed, it may be a reason to take steps toward more direct talks with the theocratic regime. At the least, it is cause for genuine concern. The question is how to handle it.
The fact that a rival to loose-lipped Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was overwhelmingly elected as speaker of the Iranian parliament suggests that it might be a good time to take preliminary steps toward resuming the official contact between Iran and the United States that was suspended with the hostage-taking in 1980. Ali Larijani, who has been critical of Ahmadinejad because of persistent inflation and other economic problems including rolling power blackouts last winter, won by a vote of 323-31.
It is unthinkable that Larijani rolled up this majority without backing from Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and the mullahs who really run the country. Most analysts interpret his victory as a signal that the mullahs are rethinking their support of Ahmadinejad, who has not only increased Iran’s isolation with his off-the-wall statements about Israel, the Holocaust and other matters, but appears to be quite incompetent.
Thus Iran’s politics may be changing in the direction of a slightly less confrontational stance toward the world at large. It could be a good time to move toward discussion of a broader range of issues than security in Iraq.
At the least talks would enable us to learn more about a country the United States knows less about than it did about Iraq before the invasion.
If the United States is to remain involved in the Middle East, it is wise to recognize that while Iran poses no direct threat to the United States, it is an important regional power. In such situations, as the Godfather understood, it is important to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.