Rogue Diplomacy

NEW DELHI – “Such very fine brains” filled with “such bad ideas.” That was how the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former United States senator and perhaps the keenest mind to enter US politics since World War II, once described India, where he was US ambassador in the 1970’s. That snappy description of my country is also a very good way to describe the current – and seemingly unending – contretemps between the leaders of Iran and the US.

As a new round of negotiations with Iran begins – with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton the first into the breach – finding a way to move Iran-US relations beyond their freighted past is an urgent matter. In both countries, deep and mutually paralyzing suspicion has poisoned relations for three decades. Negotiations in such an atmosphere are almost fated to failure.

America’s acceptance of Iran’s current regime is grudging. Iranian leaders demonize the US as if the millions killed in the 1980’s in the Iran-Iraq War (in which the US backed Saddam Hussein’s invading army) died only yesterday. So long as these dark shadows are allowed to linger, “resetting” relations between the two countries, in the manner of US-Russia relations, will be impossible.

The list of disputes between the two countries is almost endless, but Iran’s plan to enrich uranium now stands above everything else. The Iranians insist that they need nuclear power to generate electricity. Their secretiveness, maintains the US, betrays the regime’s drive to develop nuclear weapons.