Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Gamble Worth Making

The world with all of its troubles seems to be moving towards conflict with Iran. A problem, created from issues, of both countries choosing, mind you, but as the diplomat's talk the rest of the world waits with fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong. In brief, Iran wants nuclear power. Most of the world, the US, in particular, is categorically against it. Iran in recent months has raised the level of rhetoric and continued its scientific attempts. After some reading and thoughtful analysis I wish to offer President Bush a suggestion.

Meet Iran's hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Look him in the eyes and into his soul (It worked with Mr. Putin). Accept his letter as an olive branch.

You, sir, have made your reputation based on gambles. Your first run for Texas governor, the White House (when your own father expressed hope that your brother, Jeb, would carry on the political tradition) and as president you have vacationed and campaigned in varying degrees throughout 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005 against the advice of your staff, newspaper columnists, and presidential historians.

This is a gamble. The stakes, as with anything in politics, particularly international politics, are high. The rewards are equally large. First, you will have the opportunity to meet a man and get a "gut" reaction, something your morning intelligence briefings can never come close to. Second, from an ideological (political and religious) point of view, after this meeting, whatever is agreed upon will not be accepted by the Radical clerics in Iran (the real rulers of the country) which will give you two strategic options. 1. Take a tactical retreat from the likely criticism of the right-wing of your party and 2. Turn the rebuff into propaganda points not only in the US but in every moderate Muslim country in the world fighting against radical (fundamentalist) Islam. Basically, you can say, "we tried for peace, but they did not want it."

Since any such meeting would be a nightmare to agree upon if held in the US or in Iran, use a page out of President Reagan's playbook with the old Soviet Union. Meet somewhere neutral. President Reagan did not travel to Moscow to meet with President Gorbachev, rather the two met in Reykjavik. In this case, neutral, means also symbolic, thus: Istanbul, Turkey. In one swift stroke you assist in that country's continued bid for EU membership (Brussels can not look down on such a "player" now) appease the moderates AND the radicals in that country, tip your hat to Iran's religious symbolism and sensibilities, while preserve a psychological element that such a meeting is still occurring in the "west" and not say in Jordan or Egypt (not to say both those countries would not be good too).

Of course, the ultimate reward from such a gamble, Mr. President is that upon meeting Mr. Ahmadinejad you can reach an agreement, resolve the brewing conflict, and move onto other issues, foreign and domestic.

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