Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gov. Richardson on Engaging Iran

At a speech before the Center for National Policy, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson called for engaging Iran without preconditions and without illusions.

According to Richardson:

"We need to stop threatening the Iranians and talking about regime change. Instead, we need to start applying meaningful pressure, while working with them to change their behavior. We also must dialogue with moderate and pragmatic elements in both the Iranian political class and in the broader society, including business people and students who have supported moderate politicians in the past, and may do so again in the future."

His prescription for proceeding:

"As you know, US government representatives have met recently with Iranian officials to discuss Iraq, and there have also been US-Iranian meetings to talk about Afghanistan and our shared interest in preventing a return to power by the Taliban. These are all steps in the right direction, but the US needs to go further and propose broad, bilateral, unconditional negotiations with Iran -- with all subjects open for discussion. Support for such talks has come from many figures in the US foreign policy establishment, including Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

We need to end the taboo on open-ended talks, so that we can begin serious, continuing, and senior-level negotiations on the full range of nuclear, Middle East security, and economic issues. Only in the context of intensifying dialogue can we start to communicate better with Iran, and to find ways to reconcile our differences.

Our message to Iran must always have two components:

1) We must respect their legitimate right to peaceful nuclear energy, and we must let them know that gestures toward peace and reconciliation will be reciprocated with meaningful economic benefits and security guarantees;

2) We must stand absolutely firm with our international partners in letting the Iranians know that we will never allow them to acquire nuclear weapons, and that they will pay a high price if they continue to support international terrorists.

In short the message to the Iranians must be clear: work with the international community and you will be safe and prosperous. Continue to defy the international community and you will suffer and economically- and politically-damaging international sanctions."

He also stressed the need for a "more intelligent and effective American policy towards the entire Middle East":

"I have said before that there is a civil war within Islam between extremists and moderates. We must open an ideological front in the war against violent Jihadism, which is the single biggest threat our country faces.

To do that, we must do everything we can to isolate the extremists and to strengthen moderates across the Islamic world. And a good place to begin is with Iran -- where pragmatists and moderates are waiting in the wings as hard-line policies fail and as President Amadenejad’s popularity continues to slide.

We need urgently to re-engage the Middle East peace process with a high-level permanent envoy tasked with building the bases for a just peace. Continued deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will only provide aid and comfort to our enemies in the Islamic world. We must use all our sticks and carrots to strengthen Palestinian moderates and to promote a two-state solution that guarantees Israel’s security.

In the Persian Gulf, we need to work constructively with both Sunni Arabs and Shia Iranians on a wide range of security, economic, and energy initiatives that will promote stability in that crucial part of the world.

In the Levant, we need to talk directly to Syria in order to foster political stability in Lebanon and to encourage an Israeli-Syrian agreement on the Golan Heights."

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