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Lugar: The U.S. Should Still Be Willing To ‘Sit Down’ With Iran For Nuclear Talks

By Amanda Terkel  

"Lugar: The U.S. Should Still Be Willing To ‘Sit Down’ With Iran For Nuclear Talks"

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Last week, President Obama reiterated that despite the turmoil in Iran, he still plans on pursuing a “tough” diplomatic approach with the country in order to prevent a “nuclear arms race”:

Now, with respect to the United States and our interactions with Iran, I’ve always believed that as odious as I consider some of President Ahmadinejad’s statements, as deep as the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on a range of core issues, that the use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy — diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries — is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests, specifically, making sure that we are not seeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East triggered by Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon; making sure that Iran is not exporting terrorist activity. Those are core interests not just to the United States but I think to a peaceful world in general.

We will continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries, and we’ll see where it takes us. But even as we do so, I think it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we’ve seen on the television over the last few days.

Today on CNN, Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) agreed with Obama, saying that it is necessary to “sit down” in order to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program:

LUGAR: We would sit down because our objective is to eliminate the nuclear program that is in Iran. [...]

But in direct answer to your question, of course, we really have to get into the nuclear weapons. We have to get in the terrorism of Iran in other areas in the Middle East. Now we have a new opportunity in which we might very well say we want communication with Iran. [...]

This is not imposing our will, but it’s fundamental to our democracy and to the development of democracy and or better governments in Iran at this point.

Watch it:

Lugar has been one of many Republicans who have been coming out and rebutting right-wing criticism on Obama’s approach to the Iranian protests. Last week, he said that becoming “heavily involved” in the Iranian election would be detrimental to U.S. interests.

Lugar also said today that “openness of the press” is important in Iran because “we need to be able to talk to people, hear from people, argue with people.” “We don’t want to have to use Tweeter [sic],” he added.

Transcript:

KING: President Obama has said he would like high-level diplomacy, even leaving the door open to a meeting with President Ahmadinejad early on in the administration.

It is the supreme leader, of course, who calls the shots, the armed forces report to him, the state media reports to him. Senator Lugar, I want to come back to you on Senator Casey’s point. The president said diplomacy should be on the table. He has been waiting for the Iranians to come back to him.

If President Ahmadinejad or the supreme leader, Mr. Khamenei, came back now and said, we want to sit down with the United States at a high level, Secretary Clinton perhaps to the foreign minister, or president to president, should the United States say yes or would you be rewarding the unjust, to use the president’s word, behavior he sees on the streets of Iran right now?

LUGAR: We would sit down because our objective is to eliminate the nuclear program that is in Iran. This is –

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Even though — even though they are shooting people in the streets and beating people in the streets and arresting political opponents, if they called tomorrow, you would sit down with them?

LUGAR: Yes, it’s totally improbable. And the reason is that this regime now is under fire. This is not a stable regime in which two people suddenly sit down with the United States. They may not be able to impose their will. This is what — this is all about in the streets.

But in direct answer to your question, of course, we really have to get into the nuclear weapons. We have to get in the terrorism of Iran in other areas in the Middle East. Now we have a new opportunity in which we might very well say we want communication with Iran.

We want openness of the press. We don’t want to have use Tweeter [sic]. We want to have to press on the ground. But in order to have any kind of relationship, we need to be able to talk to people, hear from people, argue with people.

This is not imposing our will, but it’s fundamental to our democracy and to the development of democracy and or better governments in Iran at this point.

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