TALK TO IRAN

David Ignatius writes that Israel's former top spy believes that we need a less apocalypse-baiting approach to Iran:

"[Efraim] Halevy suggests that Israel should stop its jeremiads that Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish state. The rhetoric is wrong, he contends, and it gets in the way of finding a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear problem.

[...]

"We must be much more sophisticated and nuanced in our policies toward Iran," Halevy contends. He argues for a combination of increased economic pressure and a diplomatic opening that attempts to speak to Iran's "national aspirations" and its shared interests with America and the West -- and even Israel."

Efraim Halevy's characterization of Iran as a rational hegemonic actor, and not the nation-as-suicide-bomber that people like Norman Podhoretz and Michael Ledeen are desperately trying to sell, tracks pretty well with what Trita Parsi wrote last week. Iran feels entitled to a prominent and influential role in the Middle East. The U.S. can recognize that, and work toward making that role a productive one, and accept some of the limits that on U.S. power that this entails, or it can continue to insist that Iran yield to a U.S.-ordained regional order, and thus ensure that Iran continues to play a disruptive role.

Now, run this by Sebastian Mallaby's near-parody of liberal hawk sanctimony from a couple weeks ago, wherein he bestowed the Mantle of Foreign Policy Seriousness upon Hillary Clinton for her willingness to take a hard line on Iran, as well as her "honesty" for not repudiating her vote for the Iraq war. Mallaby's column is representative of an elite conventional wisdom which equates "seriousness" with overt appeals to military power in the service of U.S. global hegemony, and labels as "naive" anyone who suggests a more conciliatory approach, regardless of mounting evidence that the latter is clearly what's called for. It's a fixed game, and it's long past time the table was flipped.

--Matthew Duss

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