Today on CBS Face the Nation, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) argued that direct talks with Syria and Iran won’t work and compared it to “your local fire department asking a couple of arsonists to help put out the fire. These people are flaming the fire. They are the extremists.” Watch it:
As Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) pointed out moments later, Lieberman is missing the point. Iran and Syria will “respond in their own self-interest,” Hagel noted, pointing to Iran’s efforts to aid U.S. goals in Afghanistan in 2002. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and James Baker have all criticized the Bush administration’s unwillingness to talk with Iran and Syria, and the Iraq Study Group’s proposal next week will likely recommend direct talks with Iran and Syria.
LIEBERMAN: I believe that America is a mighty enough nation that we should never fear to talk to anyone. But anyone who believes that Iran and Syria really want to help us to succeed in Iraq, I just is missing the reality. Asking Iran and Syria to help us succeed in Iraq is like your local fire department asking a couple of arsonists to help put out the fire. These people are flaming the fire. They are the extremists. They are supporting terrorists in Iraq, in Lebanon and of course in the Palestinian areas.
SCHIEFFER: Senator Hagel is shaking his head.
HAGEL: That’s not the point. Of course the Iranians and Syrians are not going to come to our assistance. Of course not. But they are going to respond in their own self-interest. All nations respond in their own self-interests. Tallyrand once said that nations don’t have friends. They have interests. He was right. It’s not in the interest of Syria or Jordan or Iran to have a failed state that would be a complete mess for the middle east.
Why did the Iranians help us in Afghanistan? Why did they cooperate with us in Afghanistan on intelligence matters and other issues? Because they didn’t want a failed state next to them which comes with all the problems. They didn’t want heroin moving into their borders. What we’re not getting here, is we’re not getting a full and comprehensive wide-lens appreciation of interests.