It’s time for direct US-Iran Meetings

It has been nearly 33 years since a president of the United States met face-to-face with the leader of the world’s 20th most populace country; a nation that enjoys the third largest known reserves of oil and the second greatest reserves of natural gas.  Yet, if President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, retired General James Jones, is to be believed, the upcoming convening of the United Nations General Assembly may very well bring together the leaders of the United States and Iran for the first time since Jimmy Carter hosted the Shah of Iran in the White House in November 1977.

This is not the first time the stars aligned in favor of a meeting of these two adversaries.  In February 2009, less than one month after Obama was sworn in, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said publicly that his country was “ready for talks” with Washington.  These overtures were not immediately embraced by the Obama administration, but a month later, on March 20, 2009, in a carefully-scripted speech clearly directed to Tehran, Obama praised the Iranian people and urged if not a thawing of relations, at least the start of a new beginning.

In the 17 months since Obama’s Iranian New Year’s speech, the U.N. has imposed a fourth round of economic sanctions on Iran (in June of this year); the regime in Tehran has crushed a populist uprising; Russia reportedly is ready to begin loading uranium fuel into Iran’s first nuclear reactor; the U.S. has deployed Patriot defensive missile batteries to four Persian Gulf countries; and both Israel and the U.S. have stepped up talk of a potential military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Outside observers might be forgiven for concluding that this series of events would hardly portend an historic meeting between two leaders whose rhetoric often matches that of World Wrestling Entertainment fighters rather than participants in a diplomatic minuet. In point of fact, however, the environment in which General Jones made his veiled but pointed prediction that “the door is open” for direct talks between Tehran and Washington, is conducive to just such an occurrence precisely because of what has happened over the past year and a half.

Despite Iran’s blustering responses to saber-rattling by the West, when a top Middle Eastern diplomat – such as the ambassador from the United Arab Emirates to the United States – makes a public statement just one month ago that military action against Iran is something his country “could live with,” Iran’s leaders have to perk up their ears.  And on the economic front, even though Iran’s leaders absorb the economic hits caused by the U.N.’s tightening embargo as a point of pride in standing up its “enemies,” the country’s sluggish economy is sapping public support for the regime.

President Obama seems also to recognize that a military strike against Tehran, which would occasion cheers from neo-cons in Washington, would set in motion a series of events that would make the Iraq quagmire look like a walk in the park.  And, unlike his predecessor at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the current occupant appears to understand that there remains a significant reservoir of pro-American sentiment throughout most segments of Iranian society — an advantage that would be unleashed with a thawing of relations, but not as a result of military action which would have just the opposite effect.

General Jones packaged his entreaty to Tehran with a quid pro quo that could be easily met by Ahmadinejad – releasing the three American hikers who strayed into that nation’s territory a year ago and who have been jailed there ever since.

Much good could come of direct Washington-Tehran meetings, with no real downside, save the inevitable carping by the far right which lusts for military action.  Let us hopes leaders in both capitals have the vision and backbone to actually grasp this small olive branch.

29 comments Add your comment

Matthew Cole

August 16th, 2010
6:47 am

Talks to discuss what exactly? We have been engaging in direct talks with the for quite some time now, just not at the top level. I don’t why a presidential photo-op would be more effective than the talks between professional American and Iranian diplomats.

Karl Marx

August 16th, 2010
7:30 am

In a word NO. We should not talk to them it would just give them another reason for US bashing and we should not give them the platform.

Joshua Zambrano

August 16th, 2010
7:48 am

‘Vision and backbone’, this from an anti-semite who wants his neighbor wiped off the map for racist purposes; who like North Korea is an anti-democratic dictator aimed at nuclear intentions, and who to all reports is actively backing the Taliban’s interference in the region? The ‘real downside’ is what both national and international opinion will be of our continued cozy relationships with fascist dictators like those in Venezuela and China even as we distance ourselves from previous allies like Israel and Tibet.

Backbone regrettably implies the ability to do something other than talk, yet that is in essence all that our current president consists of. According to his own campaign director of communications Anita Dunn, they ‘controlled’ the media to achieve his victory; strictly manipulating what the press and American public saw through teleprompters and as little unscripted coverage as possible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLpmqO4xoHI

Obama is Bush in another form. He voted for Iraq War funding and for the Patriot Act to be extended; reversed his stance on free trade, and voted in favor of Bush’s budgets. It was RHETORIC.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/13/wall.bush-obama/index.html

Bob, have you looked into his voting record or political history? As seen by the Illinois Senate transcript of the Illinois Born Alive Infants Protection Act, Obama opposed a bill that addressed, in his own words, the “concern… that there was a method of abortion, an induced abortion, where the — the fetus or child, as – as some might describe it, is still temporarily alive outside the womb. And one of the concerns that came out in the testimony was the fact that they were not being properly cared for during that brief period of time that they were still living.” He opposed the bill because the babies weren’t born to a full 9-month term and should be left to die; while also denying the witness of this occurring in Illinois because he thought abortion doctors should be given the benefit of the doubt.

http://www.ilga.gov/senate/transcripts/strans92/ST033001.pdf (pgs. 84-90)
http://www.ilga.gov/senate/transcripts/strans92/ST040402.pdf (pgs. 29-35)

He also led a movement by Planned Parenthood, in Illinois Planned Parenthood CEO Pam Sutherland’s own words, to conceal the votes of Congressman on the Born Alive bills using ‘present’ votes rather than no votes since most voters aren’t aware they have the same effect.

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2007/07/obama-abortion-.html

Almost all the legislation he points to as proof of his legislative ability was passed in 2003 after he struck a deal with Illinois Senate leader Emil Jones to make him a U.S. Senator, and Jones appointed him head of legislation worked on by other senators like the landmark racial profiling and videotaped confessions bill originally sponsored by Rickey Hendon and had him craft legislation to meet daily tragedies covered by the media to raise his political profile.

http://www.houstonpress.com/content/printVersion/730783
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1738494-2,00.html

He also got into politics by disqualifying all 4 opponents, including popular incumbent Alice Palmer, on technicalities in their petition signatures after the filing deadline using a team of lawyers.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/obama/chi-070403obama-ballot-archive,0,5297304,full.story
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/05/29/obamas.first.campaign/index.html
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/04/24/obama_faced_tough_choice_in_first_legislative_race/

Just because the liberal media has, by and large, neglected to mention anything substantive like this about him, does not mean it does not exist.

free man

August 16th, 2010
8:04 am

well if you do not wanna talk we can go to WAR, please do not forget to say goodbye to your family and please please please bring enough body bags that is if you wish you body goes bag home! Pick your poison!

Disgusted

August 16th, 2010
8:23 am

Yes, it’s time for a “meeting” with some leaders who deny the holocaust, call us the Great Satan, want Israel wiped off the face of the map, fund Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and seek actively to build nuclear weapons.

I suggest about 20 of our finest 50-kiloton nuclear bombs as a start.

Barack

August 16th, 2010
9:00 am

A meeting with the leader of Iran would be a great photo opportunity for Presbo to have pictures to flash during a reelection campaign in 2 years. Mr. tough guy President with international experience proving to be global peacemaker. Presbo leaves Wally world in Panama City to meet with world leader…interupting numerous tee times in Marthas Vineyard. Fore!

Just Another Female Veteran

August 16th, 2010
9:36 am

I agree that talks at the top level is a good thing – even if the end result is no more than symbolic. It’s a step in the right direction since nothing else seems to be moving our relations in a positive direction.

2/3 of the Iranian population is under the age of 30. Most of the young people are pro-American and would love for Iran to be a more democratic society. What would happen to that sentiment if the US started dropping bombs on them? The problem with the neo-con military mindset is that it is far too often short-sighted with little to no intellectual analysis regarding consequences.

JB

August 16th, 2010
10:02 am

The rest of the world is not scared of Iran because they don’t stand up for and protect Israel.
Iran knows that every weapon,jet fighter, and nuke they have has our finger prints on it. Iran has us in their cross hairs also……. I do know, from a friend who serves on one, that we keep 2 nuclear subs with 24 nuke war heads each in those waters near them, and that country would cease to exist in 12 minutes…….I hope that keeps them at bay…….I’m told Iran knows that.

JF McNamara

August 16th, 2010
12:04 pm

It looks like the far right has already chimed in. It seems reasonable to talk. Talking doesn’t mean agreement, it just means talking.

Ahmadinejad may be a psycho for all I know, but he was elected (even if disputed) by his people and is the leader of a populous country that presents us with a lot of though issues. We should at least have a dialogue at the highest levels. We can’t pick the leaders of other countries. If they want a new one, the citizens can vote them out of revolt. We need to deal with the situation as it is and start talking.

Barack

August 16th, 2010
12:16 pm

A group hug with Ahmadjinejad will be great for world peace. I wonder if he knows the words to kumbaya???

ButtHead

August 16th, 2010
12:20 pm

Obozo should have him over to the White House for a concert and a beer summit… what a great loser, i mean leader we have….

sam

August 16th, 2010
12:23 pm

I just hope the jerk doesn’t bow and grovel to Achmin…l(whocares) like he has to all the other world powers. He makes me sick. He is only tough on the American people. He seems to kiss bum with the rest of the world. I wish he would simply pack up and move.

ATF

August 16th, 2010
12:55 pm

“Much good could come of direct Washington-Tehran meetings, with no real downside, save the inevitable carping by the far right which lusts for military action.”

Thanks, Mr. Barr. It is time. I do wonder if Iran would have been a little more hesitant about developing nuclear capabilities if Bush had talked, too.

Iran’s development of nuclear capability is scary. Maybe all the talks have to accomplish is an eyeball to eyeball conversation in which our President says: “You nuke Israel or any place on this planet and we will wipe you out.”

Maybe, one more time, Iran needs to hear it.

StJ

August 16th, 2010
1:30 pm

I’d be all for a direct meeting of Ahmeahole with the hangman. Worked for Saddam…he hasn’t started a war for some time now.

Dr. Pangloss

August 16th, 2010
2:10 pm

“It has been nearly 33 years since a president of the United States met face-to-face with the leader of the world’s 20th most populace country …”

The people who live in a country are the populace. If a country has lots of people, it’s populous.

Clinton Bastin

August 16th, 2010
3:11 pm

excellent column, would appreciate your comments on following draft letter
Clinton Bastin, Chemical Engineer/Nuclear Scientist, US Department of Energy (Retired)
987 Viscount Court, Avondale Estates, Georgia 30002
Telephone 404 297 2005; E-Mail clintonbastin@bellsouth.net

August 16, 2010

Honorable Saxby Chambliss and Honorable Johnny Isakson
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Chambliss and Senator Isakson:

My niece, Heidi Marquez, was Director of Correspondence and later Cabinet Liaison for President George W. Bush, who made several decisions about nuclear technology based on my information I was also nominated for “Who’s Who in America,“ ”Who’s Who in the World” and Who’s Who in Science and Engineering” so others could know my information was sound.

My information is from 42 years experience as leader for US nuclear programs, most of which included complex chemical engineering technology which is not well understood by most nuclear program managers, engineers or scientists. My career included extensive interaction with or weapon threat assessment of nuclear programs worldwide, and leadership of nonproliferation initiatives. From 1960 through 1970, I provided direction for nuclear weapon programs at the Savannah River Plant, had extensive interaction with weapons programs at other sites (managed by chemical companies), weapon design laboratories and the Defense Nuclear Agency. From 1968 through 1996, I briefedCIA and NSA officials on worldwide nuclear programs.

The lack of understanding of chemical engineering technology by nuclear program managers, coupled with challenges inherent in government and government laboratory management of complex technology, has resulted in formidable problems and adverse consequences for the United States, including
• wasteful expenditures of trillions of dollars
• loss of ability to produce nuclear materials for defense, space exploration and medicine
• long neglect of energy challenges
• Americans, their leaders and their news media who are grossly misinformed about chemical engineering-based nuclear technology, such as reprocessing, uranium enrichment, nuclear materials production and processing and nuclear weapons components production, fabrication and assembly with high explosives.

I have been explaining lack of a nuclear weapon threat from Iran’s important, fully safeguarded nuclear power program to Israeli Consul-General Reda Mansour during the past two years, in a meeting last year and to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the past year. Enclosure 1 is an e-mail message to the Prime Minister correcting his statement to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comparing Iran’s “nuclear weapon program” to the (also non-existing) nuclear weapon program of Germany during World War II.
Enclosure 2 is a message to the Prime Minister explaining that former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton’s suggestion that Israel bomb Iran’s nuclear power plant prior to operation is based on total ignorance and should be rejected.

I would value work with you to assure Americans and their leaders and news media are well informed about nuclear technology.

StJ

August 16th, 2010
4:24 pm

Germany did have a nuclear weapons program during WWII; however, the combined and persistent attacks of the British special forces and Norwegian resistance destroyed the heavy water Germany needed to make a nuclear weapon.

Ahmed Oveyssi

August 16th, 2010
10:38 pm

The problem here is that Mr. Barr is simply trying to push more pro-liberal rhetoric and not stand up for peoples’ rights. The US, among with many other countries, has been trying to talk to the Iranian government for the last 31 years.

Do you forget that since the revolution thousands of Baha’is have been tortured, unlawfully imprisoned, denied legal representation, and killed?

Do you forget that since the revolution thousands of reporters, journalists, bloggers, musicians, artists, foreigners, women, children, scientists, and otherwise normal individuals have been tortured, imprisoned, and killed?

As others have stated, this is the same “President” who has not only denied the Holocaust, but has went so far as to host Anti-Semetic conferences in the name of “historical accuracy.”

Since you refer to the Persian society within Iran who is in favor of the US, do you think their government might talk to us, if it doesn’t listen to it’s own people? Millions poured into the streets of Tehran and other cities in Iran when Mosavi lost the election, and the government claimed a landslide victory for the dictator.

Quite the contrary, the Obama administration needs to step up the pressure on Tehran and not allow a society which was once the “Paris of the Middle East” to drop even further into the shadows of peril. The people in Iran love freedom and the US more than most Americans do. They fight and struggle for it everyday, and are paying a harsh price for the mistakes of an uneducated pro-religious crowd in the 1970s. When millions of Iranians, not to mention a very large amount of expatriots across the globe protested in July 2009, did Ahmadi listen? No, instead, he ordered innocent citizens such as Neda to be murdered in the streets.

As for “talking” with Iran, do you forget that President Clinton walked the halls of the UN, with many promises to President Khatami of peace and negotiations, only to be left hanging? Do you forget that countless times Secretary Rice attempted to talk to the monsters in Iran? We have been trying to talk to that government from the time they started. Every President has talked to Iran, it’s never worked. You can’t reason with a megalomaniac.

I suggest an open forum night with Atlanta’s Persian population, I’d love to see how they’d react to your vision of sending Iran flowers and making small talk. Better yet, Mr. Barr, how about you go to Iran yourself, act as a modern day Jimmy Carter, and speak to Ahmadi? Do you dare? Be careful, they won’t let you have representation if you’re arrested.

Scout

August 16th, 2010
10:50 pm

To my conservative friends out there …….. this is one of the most amazing, informative videos I have ever seen. If you start it ……… you “will” finish it !

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ib9rofXQl6w&feature=player_embedded

Don't Forget

August 17th, 2010
12:07 am

“Much good could come of direct Washington-Tehran meetings, with no real downside”

Exactly. Good article.

shaggy

August 17th, 2010
6:16 am

Bob, just how does this article show your embrace of Libertarian values? Pray tell why we need to do anything but keep Iran, a country ruled by a theocracy, completely isolated and protect our citizenry from any actual threat they may pose.
Actually, George Bush enhanced Iran’s position in the P Gulf by pursuing his war on Iraq, which was based on lies to the American people. You see, the Iranians before that little expedition, were more fearful of the threat on their borders. Saddam’s Iraq. We effectively removed any fear of the unknown that they had, and replaced it with much more access to the Iraqi people. Yes, we made the Iranians heroes.

barking frog

August 17th, 2010
7:04 am

Iran wants Iraq. This combination would be
a world oil superpower. Direct talks
between Obama and Ahmadinejad would
only advance this agenda. Iran will not
change its course.

Decatur Taliban

August 17th, 2010
7:53 am

American people, you must ask yourself if destroying Iran is worth paying between $5-7 dollars per gallon of gas? That is what the direct cost to you will be. You don’t have to worry about being taxed or anything by the government that’s what the direct cost to you will be. Will you pay it? Is confronting Iran worth emptying your bank accounts, 401Ks, etc.? Your call.

John WV

August 17th, 2010
9:41 am

How can we reasonably object to Iran having nuclear weapons? Israel has nuclear weapons in defiance of UN protocols and expresses intent to attack Iran or, incredibly, manipulate United States into doing so in its behalf. Iran’s very existence is threatened. Of course Iran wants nuclear bombs. Iran needs a nuclear deterrent. Tribal religion dangerously compromises decision processes in both countries. But Iran has a recent history of peace, whereas Israel has repeatedly initiated preemptive wars and continuously brutalized its neighbors. An obvious everyone wins resolution exists: A nuclear free Middle East. Both Israel and Iran relinquish all nuclear weapons and related efforts and submit to continuing invasive UN verification.

Bennie

August 17th, 2010
10:14 am

Scout is always looking over his shoulders out of fear.

David S

August 17th, 2010
11:59 am

Come on Bob. It would be far better to allow the media and the government officials make up lies about Iran’s nuclear program so we can go over and kill a coupld of million folks. It would be far better to just impose Iraq like sanctions on the population because we don’t like their leader. Of course sanctions in Iraq led to the deaths of over 1.5 million innocent people and was one of the direct causes that motivated 9-11, but I’m sure the deaths of a million or more Iranians won’t have any negative consequences. We are America. Everyone we kill is with Jesus’ blessing. We can only do go, because that’s who we are. We operate under a special kind of exceptionalism where every war crime we commit is ok, but any minor infraction THEY commit rises to the level of war crime.

We are benevolently spreading democracy, love, and peace to all the millions we kill. Why don’t they understand that.

Diplomacy would undermine our authority. We must be obeyed. We cannot behave as though we are human beings like the rest of the folks on the planet. We are gods, or as close as you can get. I’m sure of this. Newt said so, and so did Lord Bush. Even his majesty king Obama says that we are special and that the killing needs to continue. If we don’t do Israel’s bidding, why they might have to fight their own fights with all the foreign aid dollars our government has given to them (after stealing them from the citizens).

You just don’t understand Bob. America is special. The commercials tell me our Navy is a Global Force for Good. Who you gonna believe Bob, your own common sense, or TV?

Clinton Bastin

August 17th, 2010
3:02 pm

LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU,

Dr. Samuel Goudsmit, who was in charge of US scientific review of German work with nuclear technology during WWII, explains in his book Alsos that German scientists did not have a concept of a high yield nuclear weapon and were shocked and depressed when they learned in 1945 that ohers had done what they were unable to do. “Alsos,” the Greek word for “groves,” was the code word for the review. General Leslie Groves was director of the Mahattan Project, which built the atom bombs.

The following letter to US President Barack Obama and letters published in the Sunday, February 8 and Friday, May 29,2009 issues of The New York Times explain that there is no credible nuclear weapon threat from Iran’s fully safeguarded, important nuclear power programs.

Dear Mr. President:

To make a nuclear weapon, Iran would need to:
1. Withdraw from or violate the NonProliferation Treaty, which would signal to all nations its intent to build a weapon at least ten years before it could be ready for use
2. Ignore Israel’s capability and demonstrated willingness to destroy nuclear facilities that are a weapon threat.
3. Use dangerous processes that have never been used in Iran and in facilities that almost certainly do not exist for conversion of highly enriched uranium gas to metal and fabrication and assembly of metal components with explosives
4. Jeopardize its important nuclear power program and relations with Russia and other nations

This information supports my belief that there is no nuclear weapon threat from fully safeguarded nuclear programs in Iran. It is based on experience with production, processing and safeguards of nuclear materials and their use in nuclear weapons, nuclear weapon proliferation threat assessments, US nonproliferation initiatives and knowledge of nuclear programs worldwide, including Iran

The claims of a weapon threat from Iran’s fully safeguarded nuclear power programs will continue to preclude US negotiations with Iran to resolve problems in the Middle East .

To the Editor, New York Times:

February 8, 2009

Roger Cohen (Column, Feb. 2) is right: Iranians want to move forward. They have recognized since 1970 the need for transition from wasteful use of oil, ordered five large nuclear power plants from the US, and were promised important fuel cycle technology that was later denied. Furious, Iran’s leaders cancelled the orders with the US and placed them with France and Germany.

The revolution interrupted Iran’s plans for nuclear power but not recognition of its need. Lessons learned from earlier experiences and the planned size of the nuclear program support Iran’s use of gas centrifuges to produce low enriched uranium that is needed for nuclear power but cannot be used for weapons.

More than a ton of low enriched uranium would have to be withdrawn from fully safeguarded inventories for further enrichment to produce enough material for a weapon. That would be easily detected by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

There is no credible threat of nuclear weapons in Iran

Clinton Bastin, Chemical Engineer/Nuclear Scientist, US Department of Energy (Retired)
987 Viscount Court, Avondale Estates, Georgia 30002
Telephone 404 297 2005; E-Mail clintonbastin@bellsouth.net

To the Editor, New York Times

May 29, 2009

In “Have We Already Lost Iran?, ” Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett propose that President Barack Obama follow President Richard Nixon’s example when he agreed to help leaders of China work toward free enterprise. With that same vision, President Obama would recognize Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle program as increasingly sophisticated and properly safeguarded, like that of Japan, and important to Iran’s and world interests in moving from over-dependence on diminishing supplies of oil.

President Obama should also follow the example of President Harry S. Truman when he listened to and followed the advice of Manhattan Project officers to assure safest and most successful programs for production and processing of nuclear materials for medicine, space exploration, defense and other important national programs. President Obama would listen to and follow the advice of engineers who provided leadership and oversight for these programs and make changes to restore America’s proper role as a leader in energy and nuclear technology.

Clinton Bastin,
987 Viscount Court,
Avondale Estates, Georgia 30002
Telephone 404 297 2005; E-Mail clintonbastin@bellsouth.net

Clinton Bastin provided leadership for US nuclear programs and nonproliferation initiatives, and was a consultant to US national security agencies on nuclear proliferation threat assessment.

barking frog

August 17th, 2010
8:07 pm

If we leave, when Iran invades Iraq, we will be back.

Joshua Zambrano

August 18th, 2010
4:47 am

If truly ‘tolerant’ meetings are to occur and this concept of a kumbaya with Iran seems truly feasible; then I propose we not show partiality to Iran by a sole meeting with Ahmadinejad. Rather, invite Israel to participate jointly in a conference – if Iran is truly so open-minded and peace-loving, they should seek communication such as this, correct?