Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Obama urged to heed Hillary's warning against talks with Iran

Dear President-elect Obama:

If you sat down with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, as you said you would, you would hand him an opportunity to practice his own Taqiyyah, strut on the world stage, lecture you about the supposed superiority of Iran's Islamic system and assert Iran's claim to leadership of the Muslim world.

Such a meeting would dishearten Iran's repressed opposition, strengthen Ahmadinejad's hardliners at the expense of reformist groups, give Ahmadinejad a boost in popularity that could greatly improve his chances of being re-elected if the meeting occurred before Iran's June elections, and allow him to go through the motions of a diplomatic dialogue to defuse international pressure while Iran continues its nuclear efforts.

Your nominee as secretary of state, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., rejected meeting with Ahmadinejad without preconditions, saying during the July 2007 YouTube debate, "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes."

The next day she blasted your willingness to sit down with Iran's president: "I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive." You should take the advice of your nominee and rethink your position on meeting with Iran's leader.

The United States should mobilize an international coalition to raise the diplomatic, economic, domestic political and potential military costs to Tehran of continuing to flout its obligations under its nuclear safeguards agreements.

This coalition should seek to isolate the regime, weaken it through targeted economic sanctions, explain to the Iranian people why their government's nuclear policies will impose economic costs and military risks on them, contain and deter Iran's military power, and encourage democratic change.

To drive home your point that an Iranian nuclear weapon is "unacceptable," Mr. President-elect, you should craft an Iran policy that includes the following important elements:

You should also recognize that the United Nations is a diplomatic dead end that will continue to do too little, too late to stop Iran's drive for nuclear weapons.

The United States has sought to coax another sanctions resolution out of the U.N. Security Council, which has passed three rounds of limited sanctions on Iran, but past U.S. and European efforts to ratchet up sanctions against Iran have been frustrated by Russia and China.

Both countries have lucrative trade relationships with and strategic ties to Tehran, and both have used their veto power as members of the Security Council to delay and dilute efforts to impose sanctions.

If strong, concerted international action had been taken five years ago, shortly after Iran's concealment of its uranium-enrichment activities was revealed, the rising economic and international costs of its nuclear defiance might have led Tehran to reconsider its drive for nuclear weapons, but such action is less likely now than ever before.


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