Talking to Iran

It is the most immediate strategic necessity for a re-elected Obama
ROGER COHEN

MITT Romney used the word "peace" or "peaceful" a dozen times in the last presidential debate, as if he'd been communing with the ghosts of John Lennon and Mohandas Gandhi. But the American people were not fooled. In re-electing Barack Obama, they voted for peace and against a third war in a Muslim nation in little over a decade.

Americans are tired of their trillion-dollar wars. A recent survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that 67 per cent of Americans believe the Iraq war was not worth it, 69 per cent think the United States is no safer from terrorism as a result of the Afghan war, and 71 per cent say the Iraq experience should make the country more cautious about using force.

The risk was real that Romney surrounded by hawks like the former United Nations ambassador John Bolton, beholden to the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, and prodded by his friend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel might take the US to war in Iran. Certainly, any chance of a diplomatic resolution of the crisis caused by Iran's nuclear programme would have receded for the foreseeable future.

Armed conflict with Iran in 2013 is still possible. If a reminder were needed, Iran's firing shots earlier this month at a US drone provided it. Israel is impatient with the steady progression of Iranian enrichment. Obama, while opposed to war and largely impervious to Netanyahu's clumsy prodding, has said he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. There is no more immediate strategic challenge for the re-elected president.

The question of whether the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace or for a breakthrough with Iran should be the first diplomatic priority for Obama's second term amounts to a no-brainer. It's Iran, stupid.

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