Charles Krauthammer rightly rips the Europeans, the Left and our worst secretary of state since Cyrus Vance (two hints: first female in the post, worked for Clinton) for trying to pressure the Bush Administration to have one-on-one talks with Iran regarding its nuclear program. Considering that the US has no diplomatic relations with Iran, this is a preposterous suggestion at the start. Krauthammer supplies additional logic against the notion:
Bush is now being pressured to abandon multilateralism and go it alone with Iran. Remember: In September 2003, after Iran was discovered cheating on its nuclear program, the U.S. wanted immediate U.N. action. The allies argued for a softer approach. Britain, France and Germany wanted to negotiate with Tehran and offer diplomatic and economic carrots in return for Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. acquiesced.
After two and a half years of utter futility, the EU-3 had to admit failure and acknowledge the obvious: Iran had no intention of giving up its nuclear ambitions. Iran made the point irrefutable when it broke IAEA seals and brazenly resumed uranium enrichment.
The full understanding we had with our allies was that if the EU-3 process failed, we would together go to the Security Council and get sanctions imposed on Iran. Yes, Russia and China might still stand in the way. But even so, concerted sanctions by America, Europe and other economic powers could have devastating effects on Iran and on its shaky clerical dictatorship.
. . . The very fact that Iran is desperately trying to change the subject, change the venue and shift the burden onto the U.S. shows how close the mullahs believe we are to achieving major international pressure on them.
Pushing Washington to abandon the multilateral process and enter negotiations alone is more than just rank hypocrisy. It is a pernicious folly. It would short-circuit the process that after years of dithering is about to yield its first fruits -- sanctions that Tehran fears. It would undo the allied consensus, produce endless new delays and give Iran more time to reach the point of no return, after which its nuclear status would be a fait accompli.
* * *
It is an obvious trap. We should resolutely say no.
But there's a caveat, and Krauthammer offers a smart alternative:
If the allies, rather than shift responsibility for this entire process back to Washington, will reassert their responsibility by pledging support for U.S. and/or coalition military action against Iran in the event that the bilateral U.S.-Iran talks fail, then we might achieve something.
* * *
That's our condition. Otherwise, the entire suggestion of bilateral talks is a ploy that should be rejected with the same contempt with which it was proposed.