Here’s an interesting Jerusalem Post interview with Keith Weissman — the former AIPAC Iran expert against whom espionage charges were recently dropped — on the prospect of changing the U.S.-Iran relationship. Weissman, who the Post notes “has lived in Iran, knows Farsi (as well as Arabic, Turkish and French) and wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago on Iranian history,” said that “The only viable solution is dialogue. You don’t deal with Iran with threats or preaching regime change.”
“President Bush’s demand that Iran halt all nuclear enrichment before we would talk with the regime was an excuse not to talk at all,” Weissman said. “And the administration’s preaching of regime change only made the Iranians more paranoid and told them there was no real desire to engage them, only demonize them. The thing they fear most is American meddling in their internal politics.” [...]
There’s no assurance an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities — even if all of them could be located — would be anything more than a temporary setback, Weissman told me. Instead, a military strike would unify Iranians behind an unpopular regime, ignite a wave of retaliation that would leave thousands dead from Tehran to Tel Aviv, block oil exports from the Persian Gulf and probably necessitate a ground war, he said. [...]
Weissman said Israel’s worries about Iran getting a nuclear weapon are understandable, but despite some of the rhetoric coming out of Teheran, the Iranian leaders “are not fanatics and they’re not suicidal.”
That last point is important to keep in mind in the face of “doomsday” scenarios being pushed by Israeli hardliners and their allies here in the U.S. Endless neocon appeals to “seriousness” notwithstanding, there’s really no serious analyst of Iran who believes that the clerical regime is interested in triggering a nuclear exchange in the Middle East, or even incurring the greatly increased isolation that the regime very likely knows would result from its acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Speaking at a private dinner last night, a senior European diplomat stressed that diplomacy must be given time to work, and that it was “much too early” to discuss hard and fast timelines. While it’s true that diplomacy shouldn’t be “open ended” and there should obviously be some sort of metric for judging whether progress is being made, establishing a strict timeline for talks — at least the sort that Netanyahu wants — isn’t diplomacy, it’s an ultimatum. Israel wouldn’t respond kindly to one, neither would the U.S., and we shouldn’t expect Iran to, either.