Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Compromise doesn't mean appeasement

Compromise doesn't mean appeasement

We ought to remember the lessons of this crisis today. Strength can often be found in restraint; compromise does not always constitute appeasement; and there is a bit more to diplomacy than "Do what we say or we'll bomb the hell out of you."

Diplomacy carries with it a necessity to compromise, even with dangerous people whose rhetoric is often troubling. Yes, even with Nikita "We will bury you" Khrushchev, or Mahmoud "Holocaust? What Holocaust?" Ahmadinejad.

The US has much to gain by breaking the negotiating impasse and recognizing Iran's ruling regime - by itself a major concession. There is plenty to discuss: Weapons proliferation, Iran's nuclear program, regional security arrangements in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, security guarantees, and confidence-building measures. The two sides could even carve out a formalized advisory role for Iran on matters related to Iraq. Thorny topics, such as the need to disarm Hizbullah and recognize Israel, should be on the agenda, too. Countries that have not talked for 26 years will have some serious catching up to do.

Any effort to change course in Iraq must first come to terms with Iran's ascendancy in the region. Normalizing diplomatic relations with Iran would be a bold stroke and a clear signal that the US is intent on changing its policy in the region. And it may entice US allies and nations in the region to make significant and sustained contributions to political, economic, humanitarian, and military efforts to stabilize Iraq.

• Thomas Raleigh, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, was a military adviser to the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna

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