On May 20, my CONTENTIONS colleague Noah Pollak asserted that John McCain was losing the Iran policy debate to Barack Obama. McCain had framed his refusal to talk to Tehran in such a way as to ignore the fact that extensive diplomatic overtures had already failed to persuade the Iranian regime to budge. Noah wrote:
. . . it seems to me that McCain should be making a bigger deal over the fact that the western world has indeed been deeply involved in attempting to deal with the Iranian nuclear program through almost exactly the kind of diplomacy that Obama says has yet to be tried. McCain should emphasize the fact that the Iranians have not only been unmoved by this “diplomatic offensive,” but have used the negotiations in order to buy time for nuclear development.
I think Noah was right, and I think John McCain has come to see the wisdom in this point. From McCain’s AIPAC speech earlier today:
The Iranians have spent years working toward a nuclear program. And the idea that they now seek nuclear weapons because we refuse to engage in presidential-level talks is a serious misreading of history. In reality, a series of administrations have tried to talk to Iran, and none tried harder than the Clinton administration. In 1998, the secretary of state made a public overture to the Iranians, laid out a roadmap to normal relations, and for two years tried to engage. The Clinton administration even lifted some sanctions, and Secretary Albright apologized for American actions going back to the 1950s. But even under President Khatami–a man by all accounts less radical than the current president–Iran rejected these overtures.
Then, further proving the absurdity of diplomatic hopefulness, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today came out with fresh redoubled threats against both Israel and the U.S.
I must announce that the Zionist regime (Israel), with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene. . . . Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.
Well, Senator Obama, Tehran is talking. What is your reply?