Political Animal


October 21, 2012 8:27 AM Iran Agrees to Direct Talks

By Ryan Cooper

A rare mild spot of good news from the Middle East:

The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.

This, to me, is one of the most important issues in this election. While President Obama’s Iranian policy has been vicious—Iran’s economy is largely destroyed, oil exports are plunging, and critical medicine shortages are cropping up—he has shown a marked reluctance for another ground conflict. Romney, on the other hand, is the candidate of omni-directional belligerence. His speeches—the one area where he doesn’t pander to everything in sight—are hyper-aggressive, he’s surrounded by all the old Bush neocons, and he seems totally unwilling to push against Netanyahu on the push for war.

Iran’s nuclear policy itself is largely beside the point—as Paul Pillar wrote in this magazine earlier this year, a nuclear-armed Iran is far, far less risky than a ground war, for America and Israel both.

Now, this is no guarantee of anything, and indeed has happened before with little effect. But it’s a chance to avoid yet another pointless bloody catastrophe in the Middle East. Let’s hope these talks pan out.


Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper


  • James M on October 21, 2012 9:05 AM:

    Nice post!A war with Iran would be a catastrophe beyond anyone's imagining. If you the GOP thinks we have problems in the Middle East now, just see what would happen after an attack on Iran;especially one in which Israel played a major part.

    The first thing the Iranians would do would be to use their vast network of agents to destabilize Iraq. Don't know if they could block the Straight of Hormuz or not, but the price of gas would almost certainly skyrocket, at least in the short term. We could see a new wave of terror attacks worldwide, and how would all of these war-loving 'deficit hawks' pay for their latest excursion? They have signed a holy oath to never ever raise taxes, so where would the money come from?

    One of the reasons that BO must win is to maintain a sane foreign policy?

  • James M on October 21, 2012 9:08 AM:

    Last '?' mark should have been a period!

  • James M on October 21, 2012 9:10 AM:

    OK-no more drunken comments! Think that should be the 'Strait of Hormuz'!

  • Gandalf on October 21, 2012 10:14 AM:

    I'm pretty sure tha if there is another war that none of Romney's relatives or friends would ever be in it.

  • c u n d gulag on October 21, 2012 10:20 AM:

    Ex-Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said it would be "stupid" to attack Iran.

    Good enough for me.

    Of course, Romney's NeoCLOWNS are infinitely STUPID!!!

    And if Mitt wins, we'll be bombing within a year or two. Those feckin' idjit NeoCLOWNS won't be happy until we're in another Middle East war, and gas is $16 gallon.

  • c u n d gulag on October 21, 2012 10:23 AM:

    I beg to differ - in the coming relentless "War On Women," Mitt and sons and grandsons will be front an center!

    Unless some shooting starts.
    Then they'll take off on some Mormon mission.

  • First & Ten on October 21, 2012 10:26 AM:

    I can imagine Romney trying to take credit for the turnaround because of all his belligerent tough talk. I hope Obama preempts that point and highlights his method as the better foreign policy approach.

  • zandru on October 21, 2012 10:58 AM:

    But-but-but-but talking with the Persians is REWARDING them for all the bad stuff they're doing!

    That may be the top GOP talking point. Remember how Bushco refused all negotiations on that grounds? You don't talk with a country that disagrees with you! In addition, unless the nation in question unilaterally starts doing everything you wanted it to do FIRST, you will not "negotiate" with them.

    But seriously - this is BIG. A very good thing. I know it's going over the waterfall here, but I would like to see the US consider replacing Israel with Iran as our primary ally in the middle east, as Dr. Juan Cole has suggested.

  • Diane Rodriguez on October 21, 2012 11:01 AM:

    This could help Obama in the short term. The reality is the Ayatollah has to approve direct talks and hasn't done so yet. It may be a ruse overall, but I suspect they would not talk with Romney. They'd be too busy preparing for war.

    Should we by dragged into another war,rest assured Romney's advisers will make sure that happens if he is elected, it will likely require the reinstatement of the draft.

  • pol on October 21, 2012 1:18 PM:

    I've read that the White House and Iran are denying this report.

    Rob Portman said, "sounds like "another example of a national security leak from the White House" during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

    "Well first, I don't know if it will be a big story, because both the White House and the Iranians have said it's not true," Portman said. "It sounds to me, actually, from what Helene [Cooper of the New York Times] just said, that it's another example of a national security leak from the White House. You know, and they've done a lot of that."

  • cwolf on October 21, 2012 5:41 PM:

    Iran’s nuclear policy itself is largely beside the point—as Paul Pillar wrote in this magazine earlier this year, a nuclear-armed Iran is far, far less risky than a ground war, for America and Israel both.

    Iranicly, perennial instability in Pakistan has always been a much greater potential nuclear problem than a nuclear Iran,,, as is becoming clear to anyone following the mess in Pakistan.

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