Monday, May 29, 2006

Ex-German FM Fischer on negotiating with Iran

Joschka Fischer, most recently Germany's foreign minister under the terrible Schroeder government, has an opinion piece in today's WaPo arguing for direct US involvment in the Iran negotiations.

For the most part I find plenty to quibble and disagree with in his piece (although I support his overall call for US entering into negotiations). One point where I agree: those who fear that confrontation with Iran will result in high oil prices should realize that a nuclear Iran will also cause prices to rise. An unbalanced level of power in the Mideast will surely permanently destabilize the petroleum markets.
Presenting Iran with these alternatives [Sanctions] presupposes that the West does not fear rising oil and gas prices. Indeed, the two other options -- Iran's emergence as a nuclear power or the use of military force to prevent this -- would, in addition to all the other horrible consequences, increase oil and gas prices. Everything speaks in favor of playing the economic-financial and technology card vis-à-vis Iran.

Another point of agreement: Washington should begin negotiating directly with Iran--if only for tactical reasons. Anything less than US participation will allow Iran to essentially restart negotiations from null by claiming that it needs to speak directly with Washington. Remove this possibility and negotiations move forward.
Knowledge of the potentially horrible consequences of a military confrontation and of the equally horrific consequences of Iranian possession of the atomic bomb must force the United States to abandon its policy of no direct negotiations and its hope for regime change. It is not enough for the Europeans to act while the Americans continue to look on as the diplomatic initiatives unfold, partaking in discussion only behind the scenes and ultimately letting the Europeans do what they will. The Bush administration must lead the Western initiative in harmonized, direct negotiations with Iran, and, if these negotiations succeed, the United States must also be willing to agree to appropriate guarantees. In this confrontation, international credibility and
legitimacy will be the deciding factors, and ensuring them will require farsighted and cool, calculated American leadership. [...]