Warning against the legitimizing effect of talks between the American and Iranian presidents, John McCain said today in a speech before the National Restaurant Association in Chicago that such high-level meetings “would increase the prestige of an implacable foe of the United States“:
[Meetings would] reinforce his [Ahamdinejad's] confidence that Iran’s dedication to acquiring nuclear weapons, supporting terrorists and destroying the State of Israel had succeeded in winning concessions from the most powerful nation on earth. And he is unlikely to abandon the dangerous ambitions that will have given him a prominent role on the world stage.[...]
An unconditional summit meeting with the next American president would confer both international legitimacy on the Iranian president and could strengthen him domestically when he is unpopular among the Iranian people.
Here’s another area where McCain reveals his ignorance of the Iranian system, and of the effects of his own self-gratifying rhetoric. While Ahmadinejad enjoys influence by virtue of his being a public figure, it is not he but Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, and Iran’s National Security Council, who set Iranian foreign policy.
As for “increasing the prestige” of Ahmadinejad, as Iran analysts Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh pointed out last December, Ahmadinejad’s prestige has benefited from the bellicose rhetoric coming from American conservatives, allowing him “to suppress dissent and divert attention from domestic woes to international crises he is only too happy to fuel.”
Clearly, Ahmadinejad would like nothing better than for John McCain to continue Bush’s policy of confrontation and escalation. And McCain seems all too willing to oblige, as he hysterically calls “radical Islamic terrorism” the “transcendental challenge of the century,” carelessly casting together groups and movements with conflicting goals and ideologies and treating them as a single monolithic enemy. McCain still doesn’t seem to understand that Iran and Al Qaeda are two very different groups, representing two different threats. And McCain and Bush seem to be the last people in the world to figure out that their Iraq policies have empowered Iran’s hard-liners and weakened moderates and other U.S. allies throughout the Middle East. Yet McCain continues to persist as if these policies have worked.