The White House was correct to give that kooky letter from Iran’s president the brush-off.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s letter contained not a word about Iran’s nuclear program, the concern of all the world’s major countries and most of Iran’s neighbors - a concern that Ahmadinejad later waved away as a “big lie” on the part of the United States.
Instead, the letter seemed aimed at an internal Iranian audience, to which Ahmadinejad can play by appearing to confront the Great Satan one-on-one.
A one-on-one engagement with Iran would, of course, be exactly the wrong tactic. This regime has been making war on our country since it held the 52 embassy hostages for 444 days in 1979-1980. Today it supplies weapons to Shiite militias in the south of Iraq, weapons that often end up being used against American troops. “Engaging” the mullahs solo just encourages them to think they have the United States on the run.
Unfortunately, some people don’t understand this. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called for direct talks, as have German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President Carter and Sandy Berger, President Clinton’s national security adviser.
Right now, the United Nations Security Council is exactly the place for the Iran problem, disappointing though it is that the five permanent members of the council cannot agree on what to demand of Iran and are cooking up a new package of “carrots” and “sticks.” That approach got nowhere for Britain, France and Germany in their effort to talk Iran out of trying to build a bomb. Now the council has given Iran another two weeks to ponder whether it really, really wants to develop its own nuclear enrichment capabilities. Yep, two weeks should make a real difference!
What is needed is the “good cop/bad cop” approach. Iran must fear an unrestrained “bad cop” - Uncle Sam. That’s how the hostage issue was resolved: Iran waited literally until the last minute of Carter’s presidency because it feared what the incoming Reagan administration would do (a lesson apparently lost on President Reagan himself in the mid-1980s when he started shipping arms to Iran in an attempt to free hostages grabbed by Iran’s terrorist clients).
For “good cop,” we nominate German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been notably blunt with Iran - that is, if she can get that foreign minister from the opposition party to keep quiet.