Friday, October 19, 2007

Getting Iran Wrong

The picture above is important when considering our shrub's rhetoric on Iran. For all the rants about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there is Vladimer Putin talking with the true power in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.

After meeting with President Ahmadinejad in Iran earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his support for Iran's nuclear energy program. He has also said he sees no evidence Iran is looking to build a nuclear bomb.

Mr. Bush said Wednesday he looks forward to having Mr. Putin clarify his remarks. He said Mr. Putin told him last month at the APEC summit in Australia that the world must ensure that Iran does not have the capacity to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran's chef nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Wednesday Mr. Putin has put forward a proposal regarding Iran's nuclear program during talks with Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Larajani did not elaborate.

Our shrub said this earlier this week (a truly scary statement, given the past rhetoric):

THE PRESIDENT: I think so long -- until they suspend and/or make it clear that they -- that their statements aren't real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it's in the world's interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.

But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously. And we'll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat.

There is a simple way to resolve this: Work with Russia and the IAEA to insure that Iran's nuclear program is for energy and not for weapons. If we had a mature administration, we would be engaging in dialogue with Iran. After all, we really could use their help next door:

BAGHDAD, Oct. 17 — Iraq has agreed to award $1.1 billion in contracts to Iranian and Chinese companies to build a pair of enormous power plants, the Iraqi electricity minister said Tuesday. Word of the project prompted serious concerns among American military officials, who fear that Iranian commercial investments can mask military activities at a time of heightened tension with Iran.

The Iraqi electricity minister, Karim Wahid, said that the Iranian project would be built in Sadr City, a Shiite enclave in Baghdad that is controlled by followers of the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr. He added that Iran had also agreed to provide cheap electricity from its own grid to southern Iraq, and to build a large power plant essentially free of charge in an area between the two southern Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

The expansion of ties between Iraq and Iran comes as the United States and Iran clash on nuclear issues and about what American officials have repeatedly said is Iranian support for armed groups in Iraq. American officials have charged that Iranians, through the international military wing known as the Quds Force, are particularly active in support of elite elements of the Mahdi Army, a militia largely controlled by Mr. Sadr.

An American military official in Baghdad said that while he had no specific knowledge of the power plant contracts, any expansion of Iranian interests was a concern for the military here.

We've heared a lot about Iran "meddling" in Iraq, which is almost absurd in light of the reality of our occupation of Iraq. While we may not like it, Iran has a vested interest in the stability of the country next door, and many reasons to oppose a foreign power occupying it. And, given that after four and a half years and $5 billion dollars, Iraqi's still have less electricity now than they did prior to our invasion, maybe we could use their help.

Don't get me wrong. I'm well aware that the Iranian regime is hostile toward America (not surprising, given the history). But previous administrations found ways to negotiate and work with hostile regimes to achieve common goals. It's a lot more beneficial than going to war with them.

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