David Ignatius had an extremely important piece in today’s WaPo, in which he reported on a small-group interview in which Pres. Obama spoke about Iran in a way that seemed calculated to rein in the numerous militarists who still populate some of the upper reaches of his administration (though notably not the Department of Defense.)
David’s money quote from Obama:
- “It is very important to put before the Iranians a clear set of steps that we would consider sufficient to show that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons,” Obama said, adding: “They should know what they can say ‘yes’ to.” As in the past, he left open the possibility that the United States would accept a deal that allows Iran to maintain its civilian nuclear program, so long as Iran provides “confidence-building measures” to verify that it is not building a bomb.
It is certainly significant that the President himself met with these journalists– the other participants have not yet been named– to send this message, rather than leaving the task to someone else in his administration who might then become the subject of smear and whispering campaigns from the dedicated coterie of Likud supporters that’s so powerful in Washington DC and the U.S. mainstream media. (Such as happened, for example, to his national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, around a year ago. And before that, of course– and to even more deadly effect– to Chas Freeman.)
Obama also gave Ignatius and his colleagues the message that the administration is eager to talk to Tehran about Afghanistan– though David gave no record that he said anything similar about coordination over Iraq. That, even though the politics/diplomacy of the the U.S. military effecting its now firmly promised cessation of combat operations in Iraq remain extremely unclear, complex, and potentially hazardous.
Ignatius wrote that after Obama left the room two un-named “senior officials” (one of whom was almost certainly Jones– the other, who knows? Dennis Ross???) in effect spun, or perhaps more politely “contextualized”, what the journos had just heard from the commander-in-chief by saying that the timing is now good to “test” Tehran through a diplomatic overture because Tehran has now started hurting from the new sanctions imposed by the U.N. in May/June.
Right now, the President needs all the support he can get for a policy of real and sincere diplomatic engagement with Iran. (As opposed to the kind of faux ‘engagement’ that is designed to fail, and whose sole intention is to prepare the way for a new war.)
Over at Time mag, Joe Klein has a thoughtful essay summing up the woeful series of developments that was set in train the last time pro-Likud extremists managed to jerk our nation into a quite unnecessary and unjustified war of aggression in the Middle East. (Iraq, 2003.)
It must not happen again.