There’s been so much news surrounding Iran lately that it’s getting difficult to keep up with it all. If they’re not seizing tankers in the straits, they’re rattling sabers and upping their nuclear weapons game. After that little stunt French President Macron pulled at the G7 (trying to get Trump in the same room with the Iranians), some appear to be wondering if the day isn’t fast approaching when we’ll have no choice but to sit down and start negotiating with them. Count among these observers Jason Rezaian at the Washington Post.
At this weekend’s Group of Seven summit, French President Emmanuel Macron delivered an important reality check on the war of ideas between the United States and Iran. The bottom line: Tehran is winning. If anyone needed proof, witness Macron’s decision to invite Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to the meeting.
The Trump administration has been pursuing its strategy of “maximum pressure” on Iran for nearly two years now, with zero contacts between the two sides. That may be about to change. With the annual United Nations General Assembly starting in less than a month, face-to-face meetings between U.S. and Iranian officials could materialize quickly.
President Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, both said Monday they were open to the idea of meeting.
The list of things that are wrong with this very bad take is stunning. But let’s just start with the basics.
First of all, we are not engaged in a “war of ideas” with Iran. When ships and personnel are being highjacked at sea on completely drummed up pretenses and forbidden weapons programs are being advanced, it’s edging closer and closer to a very different type of war. Also, there is no question in the minds of free people that the “ideas” espoused by the Iranian Mullahs are not even worth debating. The oppression of their own people, particularly women, gays and anyone else who doesn’t conform, is not an ideology that makes it out of the starting gate.
As to the idea that Iran is somehow “winning” in this confrontation, that’s also laughable. They’re responding to harsh sanctions that have been crippling them for a couple of years now. Sanctions that need, I should add, to stay in place until we see some progress.
Yes, President Trump indicated that he might be willing to talk to Rouhani during the General Assembly, but so what? Trump is generally willing to meet with anybody, particularly if it drives a few more headlines for him. He’s met with Kim Jong-un multiple times now. But that doesn’t mean that he’s ready to actually negotiate or put anything new on the table. You’ll recall the second-to-last meeting with Kim where he wasn’t willing to discuss serious denuclearization. Trump got up and walked out before lunch was served.
If Rouhani wants to talk, fine. Let him start the conversation by putting an immediate end to his aggressions in the Straits of Hormuz and inviting IAEA inspectors into all of his nuclear facilities. Then we’ll be happy to talk. But until Iran is ready to begin honoring their obligations to the international community, there should be no formal negotiations. We’ve kept up the pressure for quite a while now and we can definitely outlast them. There’s no reason to begin offering them goodies in exchange for nothing.