Henry Kissinger has disclosed today in his important Washington Post op-ed, “Stability in Iraq and Beyond,” that he believes America should engage in discussions with Syria and Iran.
This is a big leap beyond the wrong-headed advice that Kissinger reportedly gave Bush and Cheney on Iraq, as reported by Bob Woodward, that “victory is the only exit.”
Although there are nuanced difference in Kissinger’s essay today and the proposals of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, they are remarkably close. And both essentially call for a “new diplomatic offensive.”
Two levels of diplomatic effort are necessary:
~ A contact group should be created, assembling neighboring countries whose interests are directly affected and which rely on American support. This group should include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Its function should be to advise on ending the internal conflict and to create a united front against outside domination.
~ Parallel negotiations should be conducted with Syria and Iran, which now appear as adversaries, to give them an opportunity to participate in a peaceful regional order. Both categories of consultations should lead to an international conference including all countries that have to play a stabilizing role in the outcome, specifically the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council as well as such countries as Indonesia, India and Pakistan.
Too much of the current discussion focuses on the procedural aspect of starting a dialogue with adversaries. In fact, a balance of risks and opportunities needs to be created so that Iran is obliged to choose between a significant but not dominant role or riding the crest of Shiite fundamentalism.
In the latter case, it must pay a serious, not rhetorical, price for choosing the militant option. An outcome in which Iran is approaching nuclear status because of hesitant and timid nonproliferation policies in the Security Council, coupled with a political vacuum in the region, must lead to catastrophic consequences.
This is progress.
Kissinger allegedly sees the President and Vice President more than any other external adviser on foreign policy and national security matters — and I hope that he gives them a copy of this essay, or at least the last few paragraphs.
— Steve Clemons