Hawks need to back off from Bush over Iran talks

Word in recent days of planned talks between the Iranian government and high level State Department officials has provoked calls of flip-flops from the left and hoots from hawks on the right. There's not much to worry about in the cutesy political carping coming from the left, but the right's reaction is disturbing. How many countries does President Bush have to invade or strike before he gets some "street cred" for being tough on terrorists and despots? Can we take a moment to consider that he is making this move for a good reason? Maybe even for reasons he can't share publicly?

President Bush has consistently held a tough-line with the Iranians. He has criticized those who would offer presidential-level talks to the Iranians with no preconditions (taken personally by the media as a slap at their guy Obama). His requirement for high level negotiations could be summed up as: stop the program to build a nuclear bomb and we can talk.

At the end of 2007, President Bush got a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that said Iran had stopped development as far as we could tell. Therefore, he is acting according to the best information he has available, and I dare say I trust it more than the judgment of talk show hosts and TV pundits no matter how much I enjoy their shows.

Our intelligence services are not perfect, but at some point we have to start trusting them again; even if their findings go against our instincts. It's difficult to believe that a regime like the one in Iran might change its course toward acquiring a weapon that would alter the balance of power in the world. But let's not forget, that is exactly what happened in Libya. President Bush made that happen: thank you Mr. President.

It might help here to examine Iran's motivation for a nuclear weapon in the first place. Remember that in the 1980's there was an arms race and a war between Iran and Iraq. Although that war ended in '88, Saddam's nuclear weapons program was revealed as part of the inspections process after the Gulf War in ‘91. The specter of a nuclear Saddam set the Iranians on a renewed pursuit for a nuclear weapon in the 90's. 

According to the December 2007 NIE, Iran stopped its' nuclear weapons development program in 2003. Why? The NIE said that Iran was reacting to international pressure. But the removal of Saddam, and thus the threat of a nuclear madman, that year and the audacity of President Bush and our military likely had more to do with it than international diplomacy, thank you Mr. President.

Iran apparently abandoned its' nuclear weapons program deciding instead to focus on terrorism as the primary means of pursuing its' goals. That course was successful for a time as the militias in Iraq nearly gained the upper hand in destabilizing the fledgling Iraqi government and turning it into an Iranian puppet as the American political left, and some on the right, went weak in the knees. However, Bush's surge strategy once again frustrated Iranian (and American leftist) ambitions, thank you Mr. President.

Although Iran gained some advantage in Lebanon via its' proxy terror groups, during the 06' Israeli conflict, it still mostly just rules the south, not all Beirut as it surely wanted. Although that conflict was all-in-all a victory for them, it was a hollow one bringing no real change in the balance of power other than rubbing off some of the sheen from the vaunted Israeli military.

In a matter of weeks after hostilities ceased the Hezb'allah supporters in southern Lebanon began expressing buyer's remorse as the Israeli incursion had devastated their homes and livelihoods while bringing no tangible reward. Both the Lebanese and the Israeli government were rushed US military equipment which ended up frustrating Iranian ambitions once again, thank you Mr. President.

As it stands today Iran has lost much of its ability to strike with proxies in Iraq. The Syrian army was run out of Lebanon by US support to the Lebanese government, an act that weakened Iranian influence. The hollow "victory" of Hezb'allah in southern Lebanon ultimately became a pointless exercise except to awaken Israelis to the need to recommit to strengthening their military. Iran tested President Bush in nearly every way possible over the last five years. President Bush won.

With no more nuclear threat from Saddam, against a US government that has raised the stakes on Iranian attempts to hide nuclear development, and faced with an international community that largely agrees with our president that Iran must not get nuclear weapons, it is possible that Iran has run out of options and might actually be looking for a peaceful way out. Because of Iran's recent history trust is out of the question. But there is no reason not to find out what they have to say. That's not weakness. It's negotiating from a position of strength.

I'm not saying give peace a chance. I'm saying give president Bush a chance with the Iranians. He has earned it.

Ray Robison is co-author of Both in One Trench.
Word in recent days of planned talks between the Iranian government and high level State Department officials has provoked calls of flip-flops from the left and hoots from hawks on the right. There's not much to worry about in the cutesy political carping coming from the left, but the right's reaction is disturbing. How many countries does President Bush have to invade or strike before he gets some "street cred" for being tough on terrorists and despots? Can we take a moment to consider that he is making this move for a good reason? Maybe even for reasons he can't share publicly?

President Bush has consistently held a tough-line with the Iranians. He has criticized those who would offer presidential-level talks to the Iranians with no preconditions (taken personally by the media as a slap at their guy Obama). His requirement for high level negotiations could be summed up as: stop the program to build a nuclear bomb and we can talk.

At the end of 2007, President Bush got a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that said Iran had stopped development as far as we could tell. Therefore, he is acting according to the best information he has available, and I dare say I trust it more than the judgment of talk show hosts and TV pundits no matter how much I enjoy their shows.

Our intelligence services are not perfect, but at some point we have to start trusting them again; even if their findings go against our instincts. It's difficult to believe that a regime like the one in Iran might change its course toward acquiring a weapon that would alter the balance of power in the world. But let's not forget, that is exactly what happened in Libya. President Bush made that happen: thank you Mr. President.

It might help here to examine Iran's motivation for a nuclear weapon in the first place. Remember that in the 1980's there was an arms race and a war between Iran and Iraq. Although that war ended in '88, Saddam's nuclear weapons program was revealed as part of the inspections process after the Gulf War in ‘91. The specter of a nuclear Saddam set the Iranians on a renewed pursuit for a nuclear weapon in the 90's. 

According to the December 2007 NIE, Iran stopped its' nuclear weapons development program in 2003. Why? The NIE said that Iran was reacting to international pressure. But the removal of Saddam, and thus the threat of a nuclear madman, that year and the audacity of President Bush and our military likely had more to do with it than international diplomacy, thank you Mr. President.

Iran apparently abandoned its' nuclear weapons program deciding instead to focus on terrorism as the primary means of pursuing its' goals. That course was successful for a time as the militias in Iraq nearly gained the upper hand in destabilizing the fledgling Iraqi government and turning it into an Iranian puppet as the American political left, and some on the right, went weak in the knees. However, Bush's surge strategy once again frustrated Iranian (and American leftist) ambitions, thank you Mr. President.

Although Iran gained some advantage in Lebanon via its' proxy terror groups, during the 06' Israeli conflict, it still mostly just rules the south, not all Beirut as it surely wanted. Although that conflict was all-in-all a victory for them, it was a hollow one bringing no real change in the balance of power other than rubbing off some of the sheen from the vaunted Israeli military.

In a matter of weeks after hostilities ceased the Hezb'allah supporters in southern Lebanon began expressing buyer's remorse as the Israeli incursion had devastated their homes and livelihoods while bringing no tangible reward. Both the Lebanese and the Israeli government were rushed US military equipment which ended up frustrating Iranian ambitions once again, thank you Mr. President.

As it stands today Iran has lost much of its ability to strike with proxies in Iraq. The Syrian army was run out of Lebanon by US support to the Lebanese government, an act that weakened Iranian influence. The hollow "victory" of Hezb'allah in southern Lebanon ultimately became a pointless exercise except to awaken Israelis to the need to recommit to strengthening their military. Iran tested President Bush in nearly every way possible over the last five years. President Bush won.

With no more nuclear threat from Saddam, against a US government that has raised the stakes on Iranian attempts to hide nuclear development, and faced with an international community that largely agrees with our president that Iran must not get nuclear weapons, it is possible that Iran has run out of options and might actually be looking for a peaceful way out. Because of Iran's recent history trust is out of the question. But there is no reason not to find out what they have to say. That's not weakness. It's negotiating from a position of strength.

I'm not saying give peace a chance. I'm saying give president Bush a chance with the Iranians. He has earned it.

Ray Robison is co-author of Both in One Trench.