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Bush Rejects ISG Call For Iran Talks

In a press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush rejected the Iraq Study Group’s call of direct talks with Iran without preconditions. Stating that there is a way for Iran to begin engaging the United States diplomatically, the President reaffirmed “that if they would like to engage the United States, that they’ve got to verifiably suspend their enrichment program.” Iran is currently engaging the United States and Britain militarily through its Iraqi proxies, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades.

The Iraq Study Group Report recommended that “the United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues.” It suggested various incentives, including admission of Iran into the WTO, which presumes other WTO members would agree. Of the six incentives suggested, three of them were termed as “prospects,” including the “prospect of a U.S. policy that emphasizes political and economic reforms instead of advocating regime change,” the “prospects for enhanced diplomatic relations with the United States,” and the “prospects for a real, complete, and secure peace to be negotiated between Israel and Syria, with U.S. involvement.”

Hinting at preconditions beyond the nuclear issue, President Bush said plainly, “If they want to sit down at the table with the United States, it’s easy. Just make some decisions that’ll lead to peace, not to conflict.” The US administration’s position was summed up concisely adding, “And if people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept, then they shouldn’t bother to show up.”

A group of British Parliament ministers also spoke against talks with Iran. Lord Corbett, the chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, employed an even greater economy of words. Regarding the called-for Iran talks, he said, “The golden rule is… don’t talk to terrorists.”

But Co-Chairman of the Iraq Study Group James Baker said today that President Bush authorized him to approach the Iranians to evaluate their interest in talks with the United States. He said, “And they, in effect, said, ‘we would not be inclined to help you this time around.’” Senator Joe Lieberman said that he was skeptical of Iran’s desire to actually help America in Iraq, saying, “They are, after all, supporting Hizballah, which gathers people in the square in Beirut to shout ‘Death to America.’” Senator John McCain added, “I don’t believe that a peace conference with people who are dedicated to your extinction has much short-term gain.”

Perhaps the most salient observation regarding the productive prospects of negotiating with Iran comes from the Iraq Study Group Report itself, which quotes (pg. 25) an Iraqi politician telling them, “Iran is negotiating with the United States in the streets of Baghdad.”

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So here they are at last, the superheroes come to save us, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. They're the Incredibles, the Impossibles, the Justice League of East 68th St. They're the mandarins, the magi, the foreign policy priesthood meant to rescue us from the errors of our earthly ways.

A grateful nation thanks them for their report. The White House says President Bush will spend the next three weeks studying it. What, they couldn't produce a version he could earbud while working out?

I want the war in Iraq to have a happy ending, I really do. I want Sunni to lie down with Shiia. I want the IEDs to be beaten into iPods. I want the eagle of freedom to destroy Al Qaeda like the angel of death demoralized the Egyptians. I want the smell of democracy from Baghdad to be so strong that the Taliban will abandon Afghanistan, the Paks will shut down the madrassas, the Iranians will abandon their nukes, the Syrians will abandon Lebanon, and the Israelis and the Palestinians will embrace their ancient brotherhood in Abraham. Oh, and I also want a pony. And a cure for cancer, an end to racism, a 32" waist,(oh wait I already have that), a killer backhand and Scarlett Johansson. But in my occasional moments of lucidity, I'm afraid that I also have to admit - as my friends say in the 'hood - that's NGH.

September 11th, as it turns out, was not the death of irony. It was the death of maturity, and the death of democracy. It inaugurated the era of reason as treason, dissent as defeatism, and stop-and-think as cut-and-run. It enforced penalties on open discourse and political opposition so severe that neither Mao nor Stalin would have trouble recognizing their handiwork. September 11th infantilized us, intimidated us, and today, as we begin to rouse from our slumber and stupefaction, we can hardly believe the horror we have enabled.

So now we have placed the nine Fabulous Baker Boys, plus the Justice not replaced by Harriet Miers, in some sacred circle where they will have ten minutes to tell the truth and not be called America-haters---oops too late! (read the NY Post)

But alas, there will be no happy ending in Iraq. Like parrots squawking "Victory!" and "Finish the Job!" and "Achieve our Objectives!" in a burning house, Bush and Cheney are determined to remain the punchline of a sick joke. Without a military draft, there will be no American force large enough to impose martial law, let alone democracy, on Iraq. Without a return to earth of the Prophet himself, may his name be blessed, there will be no political solution in our lifetime to centuries of Islamic division and violence. All that lies ahead is a nightmare of slaughter, for them and for us; all paths lead to generations of instability, not just in Iraq, but across the region.

There are really only two questions America faces. One is to figure out the least bad course -- to piece together the best way to contain the carnage, limit the damage, begin the painful, painstaking, decades-long process of rebuilding our credibility in the world, and pursue, at long last, a counter-terrorism strategy that serves our interests, not our enemies.

There is a hole in the heart of our American democracy. For all their brilliance, for all our theoretical checks and balances, the Framers failed to protect us from panic and demagoguery. But the Founders can hardly be blamed for failing to anticipate the power of the electronic media. If there's a shred of truth to the right-wing argument that the MSM have turned against them, there must also be some truth to the case that that same echo chamber empowered them in the first place.

I'm a huge fan of the blogosphere and a proponent of its power, but in the age of Rupert and Rove, the internet is no match for a complaisant media complicit in its own castration.

Blackspeare,

You speak of the "decades-long process of rebuilding our credibility in the world."

I will agree with that, though not the length nor the reasons you imply.

Within the context of what you write, credibility is more defined by the international community approving of us or our actions and - to some degree - trusting us.

I care little about that, as it is useful primarily in the space of Turtle Bay cocktail parties and published Op-Eds and commentary.

The credibility that is tangible is the credibility quietly recognized when an Iran acquisces and cooperates with the Great Satan (circa 2001) lest that Satan turn NorthWest and smash its capital. Critics will argue that their cooperation was borne of longstanding rivalry and hatred of the Sunni Taliban. Yet, they trained Sunni al-Qaeda terrorists in the Bekaa Valley from its inception and were complicit in the al-Qaeda Nairobi and Tanzania embassy bombings.

No sir, they cooperated because the feared us, with our eyes narrowed, our intent openly stated and our determination and will unmistakable.

The 'credibility' lost in Iraq was not because we invaded, but rather because we have thus far refused to permit ourselves to win. Iran no longer feels the fear of consequence. Ibid Syria.

Those who the many wish to have 'credibility' with - chiefly Europe and the United Nations enthusiasts - are the wrong target audience to be concerned about. They will neither engage fully with us in the fight for our civilization's survival - even on their own behalf (save for Poland) - nor will they defeat us if opposed.

But Iran, for example, most certainly can if we continue to dance around the elephant who hates us. Our credibility is only important with them, and its employ is not - initially - for campfire songs and joint charitable ventures.

Many in the world disagreed with Iraq, but those same would have disagreed with any 'next move' in the forward-leaning offensive defense against global terrorism and the state-sponsors who fuel them.

Prescious few who disagreed with the Iraq invasion offered an alternative strategy for bringing down (or even containing) the states who both sponsor terrorism and hate us. Nearly all simply replied, "No."

Those same now cry of lost credibility, when the credibility that is important and tangible in this generational struggle has precisely been squandered by those same people through grinding the American political will to win into a globally perceived domestic 'quagmire.'

It's funny how no one of reasonable authority, responsibility or political station (past or present) says that we _can't_ win.

They have simply determined that we _won't_.

That, sir, is the Tet Offensive revisited and political defeat snatched from the jaws of a victory that requires but patience.

Sickened by all this to my core, it is from this perspective that I respectfully reject the premise of your comment, sir.

Media et al,

We have already won the war in Iraq. That happened a couple of years ago. What's happening today, sectarian violence, has political but no military significance.

We have lost fewer soldiers than in any other war except the invasion of Grenada. Saddam's nuke program, in conjunction with Libya is no longer running.

Those who were against this war from the outset will always portray it as a failure, even if only one unhappy bunny can be found in Iraq. Nation building is now up to the Iraqis. If they flub it that is their problem. If they wanted to put Saddam back in charge, they could, but they're not that keen.

Let me offer a perspective from history.

If Churchill offered to go into France in 1940, to stabilize it, but refused to go after Germany, would that effort have suceeded?

If that is what we envision now, then Iraq will be left in a state of sectarian violence. But the blame lies outside Iraq's borders, in Iran and in Iran's Syria.