Talk can be cheap – especially when it comes to the dithering, diplomatic variety.When the United States and Iran participated in a regional conference on Iraqi security in May, it didn’t cost Iran anything to berate the United States, condemning U.S. soldiers as “terrorists” to distract the world from the hand Iran had been playing in the insurgency. Meanwhile, U.S. officials avoided the cost of increased tensions with Iran merely by failing to maintain a no-tolerance stance in regard to such medieval-minded theocracy that can think of no better use of technology than terrorism.
It is for this very reason that talk can be expensive, and even deadly. The United States doggedly handles Iran with kid gloves, despite its antics and outbursts. This hurts the United States on a physical level – reducing its security in various ways – encouraging rogue elements that see no repercussions to aggression.
A brief recap of Iran’s poor behavior in recent months includes the capture, detention and psychological torture of British soldiers operating in Iraqi waters, the detention of four Iranian-Americans for bogus “espionage” charges and, just last week, the alleged Iranian shipments of explosives and other armaments to Taliban operatives. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, an Associated Press news release reported that Iran boasts of its military advantage over the United States, saying “all the American bases in the region are within the reach of our weapons,” and “if the United States attacked Iran, U.S. interests would be in danger everywhere in the world.”
Some proponents of “talks” nevertheless regard such developments unabashedly. Speaking on “Meet the Press” Sunday, Colin Powell called for talks with Iran and Syria, adding several “blame-the-United States” caveats, of course. UPI reports Powell as describing it as “shortsighted” of the United States not to engage in regional talks – even though it did. He even goes so far as extending said shortsightedness to the United States’ desire to solve problems, saying, “And so I think it is shortsighted not to talk to Syria and Iran and everybody else in the region, and not for the purpose of making a demand on them, and I’ll only talk to you if you meet the demand that I want to talk to you about.”
Perhaps Powell likens an ideal conference to one that tries to accomplish nothing whatsoever and instead focuses on politically neutral subjects such as the weather and Paris Hilton’s incarceration.
But I digress. Democratic primary candidate Bill Richardson also advocates egotiations, saying Iran is susceptible to international pressures like sanctions. This ignores the fact that sanctions passed by the United Nations have neither curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions nor the too-big-for-its-britches militarism that rightfully makes its neighbors squirm.
How, then, should the United States handle Iran? I favor Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s position: Iranians continue to kill and maim Americans in Iraq, and they should be punished for it. Lieberman does not advocate nation building or an approach to Iran similar to that of Iraq, but instead favors a surgical air strike on a base suggested to train militants. Speaking both of Iran’s nuclear program and its role in regional instability, he explains: “We can tell them we want them to stop that [Iranian nuclear program]. But if there’s any hope of the Iranians living according to the international rule of law and stopping, for instance, their nuclear weapons development, we can’t just talk to them.”
This reasoning is air-tight: If Iran has been ‘engaged’ diplomatically and that engagement hasn’t borne fruit, then the United States must consider military means should it truly want to stop Iran’s nuclear program and protect its soldiers, as well as Iraqi sovereignty.
Iran has initiated force against the United States, plain and simple. The issue is no longer whether Iran is all talk – it is whether the United States is willing to defend itself against foreign fighters, on its own soil or abroad. It’s one of the foremost duties of a rights-respecting nation.
Victoria Bekiempis is a junior majoring in history and French.