Admiral Fallon and Iran

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Post has unfairly put Adm. William J. Fallon's views in a negative light ["A Failing Campaign," editorial, March 14]. The real issue has two aspects. The first is whether the campaign to stop Tehran's nuclear program can succeed by peaceful means without a credible threat of force. The answer is not clear-cut.

An effective sanctions regime might be sufficient to induce Tehran to alter its disturbing behavior, but the track record on sanctions has been poor. So the option of using force cannot be lightly discarded.

The question, then, is whether the United States, acting unilaterally and lacking the needed U.N. Security Council authorization, can credibly threaten to use force against Iran, given its current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Certainly the United States has the capability. But would that produce the desired result, and how would we deal with the resulting chaos? Such questions are relevant.

Under these circumstances, U.S. saber-rattling lacks credibility and shifts attention from the irresponsibility of Iran to the potential for irresponsible action by the United States. Far from weakening the diplomatic offensive, Adm. Fallon's blunt statements simply removed the appearance of dangerous U.S. blustering. The threat of Iran's nuclear program is real, but the solution must be found through collective action, not irresponsible posturing.




The March 14 editorial "A Failing Campaign" itself failed to see where U.S. policy toward Iran has gone wrong; sanctions, threats of force and isolation have not led to regime change in Iran or compelled Iran to acquiesce to U.S. demands. In fact, U.S. policy has strengthened the conservatives and weakened the reformists. U.S. threats also have jeopardized nonproliferation efforts.

By insisting that Iran submit to U.S. demands before talking can begin, the United States has protected those in Iran who do not want to work toward normal, peaceful relations by shielding them from any need to compromise.

Last year, I spoke with Iranians in Tehran, including former president Mohammad Khatami and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as part of an ongoing dialogue between Iranian leaders and U.S. religious leaders. I learned that reformists and conservatives need no sanctions or threats to go to the negotiating table. They love that the Bush administration deposed their enemy Saddam Hussein and elevated the political role of Shiites in Iraq. While they will make trouble for a U.S. administration that rejects them, they clearly would prefer talks leading to normalized relations and entry into the World Trade Organization, and say they would answer U.S. demands in exchange.

Sanctions and isolation have failed for nearly three decades. Another way is open to our government.


Executive Secretary

Quaker Friends Committee

on National Legislation


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