Tom Friedman says we can’t negotiate with Iran yet because we don’t have enough leverage. We need to get the leverage first, and then we talk. Mostly, I find this whole line of argument wrongheaded for the reasons David Shorr outlines.
But we also need to get real here for a moment and recognize that we’re the United States of America and despite the damage Bush has done we have plenty of leverage. We’re a giant rich country and they’re a medium sized middle income country. We have military forces in two of Iran’s neighbors, we maintain sanctions on Iran that hurt their economy. Our closest ally in the country is a rich nation with a power military establishment and nuclear weapons, their closest allies in the region are non-state militia groups. We have plenty to offer Iran that would be valuable to them insofar as they’re willing to change their behavior in ways that are valuable to us. That’s all the leverage you need to start a process of negotiation.