March 4, 2008

Thank you Diane Feinstein

The editors at the Economist are arguing that December’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has brought “international policy on Iran to the edge of collapse.” It has made America’s diplomatic position weaker, they say.

If by “diplomatic position” you mean threatening war and creating a hostile environment that strengthens Iran’s hardline elements, thus rendering a peaceful solution even more out of reach then, yes, the Economist is correct.

Thankfully, the NIE has opened up space for clearer heads to prevail by silencing those who were itching to bomb Iran.

Diane Feinstein is one such voice of reason. She states correctly in her San Francisco Chronicle op-ed today that “now is the moment for a bold U.S. diplomatic move to begin direct official talks with Iranian officials.” Maintaining the status quo is unacceptable, as the recent patrol boat incident has shown. She uses Nixon’s and Kissinger’s leadership in opening up China as a good example of what can be accomplished through negotiations. She further argues that preconditions to talks with Iran are counterproductive.

This type of straight talk, which we have also begun to see on the presidential campaign trail, would have been political suicide before the release of the NIE. Calling for talks without preconditions was a sure ticket to garnering the label of ‘Islamofascist’.

It’s also important to note the effect the NIE had on Iranian domestic politics. Contrary to what the Economist would have us believe, the intelligence report has opened up space for debate inside Iran in the month preceding important elections in the majles.

It’s not inconsequential that Congressional representatives with high numbers of Iranian-Americans in their districts have been vocal about diplomacy with Iran. This shows the impact that our community is having on the debate.

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