All of a sudden, revolutionary Iran has offered direct talks with the United States. All of a sudden, the usual suspects -- European commentators, American liberals, dissident CIA analysts, Madeleine Albright -- are urging the administration to take the bait.
It is not rare to see a regime like Iran's -- despotic, internally weak, feeling the world closing in -- attempt so transparent a ploy to relieve pressure on itself. What is rare is to see the craven alacrity with which such a ploy is taken up by others.
Mark my words. The momentum for U.S.-Iran negotiations has only begun. The focus of the entire Iranian crisis will begin to shift from the question of whether Tehran will stop its nuclear program to whether Washington will sit down alone at the table with Tehran.
To this cynical bait-and-switch, there can be no American response other than No. Absolutely not.
Just yesterday the world was excoriating the Bush administration for its unilateralism -- on Kyoto, the ABM Treaty and most especially Iraq -- and demanding that Washington act in concert with the "international community.'' Just yesterday, the Democratic candidate for president attacked Bush's foreign policy precisely for refusing to consult with, listen to and work with "the allies.''
Another day, another principle. Bush is now being pressured to abandon multilateralism and go it alone with Iran.
Krauthammers suggests that we not fall into this obvious trap--unless one condition applies. We should look the international community if the eye and state that sure, we'll go into negotiations with Iran--but only if you publically pledge beforehand, that the failure of any unilateral talks with this lying and deceitful regime will immediately lead to united military action by the international community.
Barring that kind of pledge, what possible advantaage would there be in our sitting down with Iran? Ahmadinejad will simply use such negotiations as a platform for showing off his pseudo-macho contempt for anything the U.S. does. Haven't we heard enough scornful responses from the fruitcake in charge? A brief sampling:
“They say we want to give Iranians incentives but they think they are dealing with a four-year-old, telling him they will give him candies or walnuts and take gold from him in return”
“Iran will not accept any suspension or freeze of nuclear its work”
"We are asking them to step down from their ivory towers and act with a little logic"
"The Islamic Republic, based on its principles, without being scared of the fuss created, will continue on its path of scientific developments and the world cannot influence the Iranian nation's will"
"The International Atomic Energy Agency has accepted that we are now part of the atomic club"
"I am telling those fake superpowers that the Iranian nation became independent 27 years ago and ... on the nuclear case, it will resist until fully achieving its rights"
This is the kind of rhetoric we have been hearing on a daily basis for several years now from Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. Why in the world would anyone believe that they have any real intention of negotiating in good faith?
It is mere fantasy and wishful thinking on the part of the international community.
By now, even the slowest learners should have figured out that Iran has no intention of stopping its nuclear ambitions; has no intention of doing anything except trying to buy itself yet more time -- something they continually get from the dhim bulbs and enablers of the world, who still believe that if they say "pretty please" enough times, it will make everything better.
On the contrary, that kind of appeasing behavior is correctly perceived by bullies as a fundamental weakness that can be exploited. The practical result is positive reinforcement of the behavior, that continues to escalate because it feeds the ego of the bully.
There is only one principle that can stop Iran's pathological behavior and it is as Krauthammer explains so clearly: You set the limits; clearly state the consequences of unacceptable behavior; and then follow through.