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When A Gaffe’s Not a Gaffe

The HuffPo thinks they’ve caught McCain in a gaffe on this statement on Iran:

“Today, some people seem to think they’ve discovered a brand new cause, something no one before them ever thought of. Many believe all we need to do to end the nuclear programs of hostile governments is have our president talk with leaders in Pyongyang and Tehran, as if we haven’t tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the past two decades.”

McCain has clearly forgotten what Max Bergmann points out: The stated policy of the United States since April 7, 1980 has been that we don’t talk to the Iranians. Never has the United States had communications, or tried to have communications, with the Iranian government on their nuclear program. Iran’s nuclear communications have been limited to working through the European Union (led by France and Germany, countries John McCain has referred to as “vacuous” and “posturing”).

Michael Ledeen, however, sees things differently (2007 WSJ op-ed):

For some time now, the chattering classes have debated whether the United States should negotiate with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Both sides have endowed the very act of negotiating with near-mythic power.

The advocates suggest that “good relations” may emerge, while opponents warn it is somehow playing into the mullahs’ hands. Both seem to believe that the three recent talks in Baghdad are historically significant, since they are said to be a departure from past practice.

That claim is false. Every administration since Ayatollah Khomeini’s seizure of power in 1979 has negotiated with the Iranians. Nothing positive has ever come of it, but most every president has come to believe that a “grand bargain” with Tehran can somehow be reached, if only we negotiate well enough.


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