April 23, 2008

Kaplan: Let's Talk to Iran

Dr. iRack here. Fred Kaplan over at Slate has a good piece making basically the same point I made Tuesday about the clear need to engage in an all-out diplomatic effort with Iran over Iraq.

Since the start of the offensive in Basra, Sadr's Mahdi Army has resumed shooting at American soldiers in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad—and, interestingly, in that fight, the Iranians are supporting Sadr.

In other words, we find ourselves lassoed into an armed intra-Shiite power struggle on two fronts—and the Iranians are positioned to benefit from one or both contests, no matter whether the side we're backing wins or loses.

So, again: Are they really good at this game, or are we simply out of our element?

One thing is for sure: It is time to start talking with the Iranians. First, they control too many of the pieces for us not to engage them diplomatically. Second, it turns out that we do have some common interests (for instance, crushing Sadr in Basra). Might it be possible to leverage those interests to induce cooperation, or extract concessions, in other realms where we have differences? Third, Maliki clearly has no qualms about talking with the Iranians when it suits his purposes. Why should we?

Finally, there is so much to discuss with Iran that unless we're at war with each other (and nobody has suggested that we are), it's stupid—unfathomably self-destructive—not to make a serious effort.