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NY Times' Kristof: Hang up, Tehran is calling

Published: Saturday January 20, 2007
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"One of the most worrying parts of President Bush's Iraq strategy doesn't have anything to do with Iraq. It's the way he's ramping up a confrontation with Iran," begins New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for Sunday editions of the paper.

"We could have taken another route," Kristof writes. "In 2003, Iran sent the United States a detailed message offering to work together to capture terrorists, to stabilize Iraq, to resolve nuclear disputes, to withdraw military support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and to moderate its position on Israel, in exchange for the United States lifting sanctions and warming up to Iran."



Some diplomats liked the idea, but administration hawks rejected it at once. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former chief of staff to Colin Powell, says that the State Department sent a cable to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, who looks after U.S. interests in Iran, scolding him for even forwarding the package to Washington.

"When you have such a buildup and have zero communications, and you have an arena like Iraq where you may step on each other's toes, you could have rapid escalation," warns Vali Nasr, an expert on the region at the Naval Postgraduate School.

It doesn't appear that Bush wants a war with Iran. His aim seems to be a show of force to deter Iran and reassure our allies in the region. But he is on a path that may easily lead to escalation.....

By instigating a coup in 1953 and seeking special legal privileges for U.S. troops in 1964, we empowered extremists like Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and allowed them to tap nationalist outrage. So it would be in keeping with tradition if Bush, by shortsightedly stoking a confrontation with Tehran, now inadvertently helped Iranian hard-liners crush Iran's democracy movement.