Is the “Great Satan” missing a Great Opportunity with Iran?

International Politics, Politics

In the Axis of Evil, there is one evil that stands above the rest, a country whose president will cause protests and allows commentators to rant for days in advance of his visits.  Of course that country is Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

President Ahmadinejad visited the UN last week and we were treated to all the usual fireworks.  Senator Clinton and Governor Palin jostled to attend a National Coalition to Stop Iran Now protest, President Ahmadinejad made more anti-Zionist remarks and generally heaped ridicule on the US and both Senators McCain and Obama vowed to prevent Iran from getting the bomb in last Friday’s debate.  More important though, are Obama’s and McCain’s positions on negotiating directly with Tehran.  Are we missing a rare opportunity to actually make some progress with a country that has been a thorn in our side for twenty five years?

Despite all of Ahmadinejad’s bluster, he has some real problems at home.  Iran’s economy is lagging despite its oil wealth.  While Iran is an oil exporter, it is a gasoline importer and the high cost and scarcity of fuel is a major problem.  Tehran has daily power outages and long lines at the pump.  Its talented and well educated workforce is being wasted and Ahmadinejad’s popularity drops every time the price of gas rises.  The one bright spot for him back home is his nationalist rhetoric.  That Iran needs more power is obvious to the Iranian people and since nuclear is clean and green, it’s not a large leap for Ahmadinejad to say Iran should look towards nuclear energy to solve its power woes.  If it helps to get the bomb as well, what Iranian is going to complain when a nuclear Israel regularly trades barbs with Iran?  We can make a great case for why going nuclear is not worth the effort, but we can’t do it unless we sit down.

That leads me to this point:  “It took Nixon to go to China.”  Only a hard core, anti-Communist like Nixon could be trusted by the public to negotiate with Red China.  Likewise, only Reagan could meet with the “Evil Empire.”  If Ahmadinejad comes to the table with the US, he will be trusted back home in a way that his liberal predecessor, Mohammad Khatami never was.  He can negotiate with the “Great Satan.”  President Ahmadinejad has dropped hints that this is possible, but not if the US insists that Iran give up all its leverage in advance.  The US has a lot to gain from a friendlier Iran: security in Iraq and Afghanistan, stability in the Middle East and lower tensions with Israel.  All that won’t happen overnight.  There is still a lot of bad blood between our two governments and legitimate concerns on both sides that handshakes and smiles won’t address, but all that is nothing compared to the challenges Nixon faced in dealing with China.  It’s worth our time to see what would happen in a frank sit-down between two countries that can’t seem to get on the same wavelength.  Maybe Ahmadinejad is just the person we’ve been waiting for.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. sozobe  •  Oct 1, 2008 @8:21 am

    Huh, good point about how it might be easier for Ahmadinejad than his predecessor…

  2. nimh  •  Oct 1, 2008 @8:05 pm

    Although according to the same logic, the Americans would need McCain to do it…

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