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October 15, 2008

Senator Lugar Breaks with McCain, Urges Diplomacy with Iran

“In some cases, even refusing to talk can be dangerous.” Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) said this today in a speech before the National Defense University in Indiana.

The call by Senator Lugar for more robust diplomatic overtures to Iran came after he joined with Senator Obama in opposing the conventional wisdom in Washington that “hostile nations must be dealt with almost exclusively through isolation or military force.”

Senator Lugar, the ranking Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee seems to be creating a rift within his own party over Iran policy–one of the most divisive issues of the election. The senator has been described as a good friend of Senator McCain and one must wonder: are all the Republicans jumping on the maverick bandwagon?

Updated: Full Text available here.

In all seriousness, the decision to side with Senator Obama rather than Senator McCain, of his own party, is not one to be taken lightly. The call for diplomacy with Iran will likely provide political cover for other Republicans to follow suit and abandon the hard line that Republicans have until now insisted on using toward Iran. Senator Lugar’s statement follows two key shifts by the Bush administration on Iran policy–the possibility of opening a US interests section in Iran and the decision to send the third-highest State Department official to negotiations with Iran.

Perhaps though, this is not indicative of a rift within the GOP but instead the beginning of a new Republican policy on Iran. However unlikely that may seem, one cannot ignore the definitive shift in central Republican figures on Iran, including President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In the past Senator Lugar has advocated diplomacy with Iran rather than isolation. In June of 2007, after calling for troop-withdrawal in Iraq, he advocated including both Syria and Iran in talks about the country’s future. In June of 2008 the Senator supported cooperation with Russia on Iran sanctions and warned against isolating a potential ally. Recently, after several missile tests were performed by Iran in July of 2008, Senator Lugar urged a prolonged view of the situation thus passing the US-Russia Nuclear Pact.

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