News Release

Former Diplomats on Iran and Syria Opening

EDWARD L. PECK
Peck, a former U.S. chief of mission in Iraq and former ambassador to Mauritania, was deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism in the Reagan administration. He said today: “Issuing threats, and/or demanding significant concessions before talks can start has nothing whatever to do with engaging in diplomacy. Bellicose, hostile insistence that a sovereign nation must start this or stop that will always generates resentment, resistance and animosity, especially when it is done in public. Diplomacy can only take place when two or more parties are able to express their views and discuss their concerns in a non-confrontational environment.

“Instead of talking, the administration issues dire warnings. It also has advertising experts, like the State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, Karen Hughes, who apparently believe our culture, customs, habits, system of government and commerce can be marketed to other peoples like a household detergent. Foreign policy does not succeed through sales gimmicks. We need to engage in meaningful dialogue with other countries, especially those with whom we may have differing views, to see if rational, mutually acceptable solutions can perhaps be found.

“During the decades of the Cold War, we knew the Soviets had the capacity — at cost — to blast us off the face of the earth. They supported countries with which we had problems, and trained, armed, financed and equipped armies against which we fought in Korea and Vietnam. All through that dangerous, difficult period, we stayed in close diplomatic contact. Not because we loved and trusted them, but precisely because we did not. That way, catastrophes can often be avoided. The opposite approach, the total lack of contact, the one we followed with Iraq — and are so far following now with Iran — can lead to the least desirable result, a catastrophe.”

In 2006, Peck toured the Mideast with an unofficial delegation of former U.S. ambassadors and met with numerous officials including President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon, with Amr Mousa, secretary general of the Arab League, with Hamas and Hezbollah officials and with other opposition leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Israel.
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CLOVIS MAKSOUD
A former ambassador of the Arab League to the United Nations, Maksoud is currently director of the Center for the Global South at American University. He said today: “This announcement seems like an attempt to accommodate a bit of the pragmatic thinking that came out of the Baker-Hamilton report — thus a lessening of the control of the agenda by the neo-conservatives. But there doesn’t seem to be any guarantee yet that this is an actual solidified policy shift. The U.S.’s exclusion of Iran and Syria — as if they have nothing to do with Iraq — has become visibly untenable.

“Now, the U.S. needs to assure Iran and Syria that this is real negotiations and not some sort of trap. If it’s solidified, in addition to helping the situation with Iraq, Iran and Syria, it could help in other ways, such as calming down the situation in Lebanon, to get a national unity government, as is happening with the Palestinians.”

ANN WRIGHT
Wright is a former State Department diplomat and retired Army Colonel. Among her numerous assignments, she helped re-open the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan in 2001. She resigned from the State Department in protest of the Iraq invasion in March of 2003. She said today: “It’s high time there are face to face talks with the Iranian and Syrian governments. While there may not be immediate positive results — look how long it took to get some progress on North Korea — this is a long overdue first step. Bush has been belligerent toward Iran — calling it part of the ‘axis of evil’ even before Ahmadinejad became president — and Bush has invaded two countries surrounding Iran. No wonder Iran has felt compelled to take defensive steps.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167