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The Reality Situation / Iran / for Obama & McCain

Op-Ed Columnist

The Reality Situation

By DAVID BROOKS

Published: May 30, 2008

Dear Senators Obama and McCain,

David Brooks

You are now engaged in a campaign debate over whether to talk with Iran. As I’m sure you both know, this is a political exercise that will have little relevance should you actually take office.

In the White House, you will find yourself spending more time on Iran than any other foreign policy issue. You’ll be reminded that the 1979 Iranian revolution is one of the signature events of modern history, akin to the 1917 Russian Revolution, and the U.S. has never figured out how to deal with it.

You’ll gather your intelligence experts to help you understand the Iranian threat. They will tell you what they have told the current administration: We don’t know much about how the Iranian regime operates. There are at least four internal factions that seem to regulate each other, but we have little idea how.

We don’t understand the Iranians because the Iranians don’t understand themselves. The regime isn’t sure whether it is an ideological movement championing global jihad or whether it is merely regional power seeking Middle East hegemony. Until the Iranians resolve this internal ambiguity, you can talk to them all you want, but they won’t be able to make a strategic shift or follow a more amenable path.

As you sit in the Oval Office contemplating how to engage Iran, you won’t be reliving the campaign debate about when to negotiate. You’ll be thinking about how to exert pressure.

You will develop newfound sympathy for your predecessors in the Bush administration. There are a hundred things they could have done differently, but the primary fault for the failure to contain Iran does not lie in Washington.

It lies first with the feckless international community. The United Nations has passed resolutions demanding an end to Iranian nuclear enrichment. Iran ignores them. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 forbids the rearmament of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran rearmed them without consequence. Fault also lies with the terrified but nearly immobile Sunni world. It lies, too, with the axis of the avaricious.

Link to complete The New York Times article>>

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