It's Time to Talk to Iran
Former U.S. hostage L. Bruce Laingen plans to hear former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami speak today because he believes in talks, but the Bush administration sticks to its self-defeating "no contact" policy toward Iran ["Khatami Arrives as U.S. Weighs Sanctions on Iran," news story, Sept. 5].
Do our leaders fear that they will be overwhelmed by Mr. Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il if they talk directly to them or respond to their letters? Why can we talk to North Korea only when Japan and China are present? Why must our vital diplomatic positions be explained to Iran by France and Germany while we stay home?
Let Mr. Khatami and other influential Iranians see the United States with their own eyes. Invite them as international visitors. Dialogue about the three Abrahamic faiths in the peace process would be one excellent approach. We have everything to gain from showing off our country and culture and nothing to lose from talking directly to influential foreign leaders, present and past. The more dangerous their threats and the deeper their isolation, the more essential it is that they see and hear us.
DAVID I. HITCHCOCK
David Ignatius makes a significant omission when comparing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tactics to a game of chicken ["Ahmadinejad's High-Stakes Game," op-ed, Aug. 30]: Doesn't it take two to play that game?
One of the reasons that "nobody knows the rules of the road" in this nuclear standoff, as Mr. Ignatius correctly notes, is the Bush administration's incoherent and contradictory nuclear nonproliferation policies. It is rewarding India's nuclear weapons program with a deal to share technology; doing next to nothing about Pakistan's veritable nuclear Wal-Mart; winking at Israel's nuclear arsenal; unilaterally dropping out of arms control treaties such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; and ignoring our own obligations to pursue nuclear disarmament under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Equally important is the fact that the administration has repeatedly upped the ante by threatening military action against Iran. The United States invaded neighboring Iraq, ostensibly over its nonexistent nuclear weapons program, and it is well remembered in Iran that the United States overthrew a democratically elected government in 1953 to install the brutal shah. Given all this, is it surprising that Iran's government is acting the way it is?
The Bush administration would have far more credibility if it had an evenhanded nonproliferation policy, a serious commitment to ridding the planet of the scourge of nuclear weapons and a track record of diplomacy instead of war.