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September 26, 2008

Talking to Iran
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Here is what Republican secretaries of state and military leaders think about engaging Iran. 

Former Secretaries of State Kissinger, Albright, Powell, and Christopher on Diplomatic engagement with Iran. “Five former U.S. secretaries of state on Monday announced their support for talks with Iran, with all five saying the United States should not wait to launch diplomatic engagements with the Islamic Republic… Moderator Christiane Amanpour of CNN asked the diplomats how they would respond if Iran declared it was prepared to make a deal with the U.S. after the upcoming elections. Kissinger responded "I'm in favor of negotiating with Iran,"… “Albright also issued her support for talks, saying, "We need to engage with Iran. You have to deal with countries you have a problem with." Powell issued a harsh rebuke to those who would stonewall the Islamic Republic, saying, "we should start to talk to them and not wait till later. What are we afraid of?" Former Clinton administration secretary of state Warren Christopher highlighted U.S. military shortcomings in the need to pursue talks, saying, "We cannot afford not to have a dialogue, the military options are very poor." [Haaretz, 9/16/08]

Fmr. Secretary of State Colin Powell: Talk to Iran. Secretary Powell said that “we should start to talk to them.  Don’t wait for a letter coming from them.  Start discussion.  We’ve been talking to them up through 2003.” Asked whether we should “take the initiative?” Powell responded, “Yeah.  We shouldn’t we?  What are we afraid of?  We did.”

Fmr. Secretary of State James Baker: We can contain Iran. “You never hear anything today about the potential for containment.  Now, I realize people will tell you these are nuts, these mullahs and ayatollahs are crazy.  They don’t – they won’t understand containment.  We contained the Soviet Union for 40 years – an overwhelming conventional threat against Western Europe – through the strength of our strategic nuclear deterrent.  We don’t need that nuclear deterrent anymore for Western Europe.  And I think a well placed, quiet, private phone call to the Iranian leadership, if you can find out which leaders to talk to – Chris makes a good point – to the effect, look, if you so much as aim a missile or anything else toward Israel or toward us, our strategic nuclear deterrent can be re-aimed in 20 seconds.  They would understand that I think.”

Fmr. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: Negotiate with Iran. “I’m in favor of negotiating with Iran.  And one – (unintelligible) – of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East – of a stable Middle East and our notion of nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it; and therefore, I actually prefer doing it at the secretary of state level.”


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McCain's point, to be fair, was that Kissinger wouldn't advocate a president-to-president negotiation without clear conditions beforehand. McCain agreed that we should--and indeed HAVE--"talked" to Iran.

Don't believe me? Well, here's what Kissinger says:

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You have to deal with countries you have a problem with.

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