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Wednesday, January 28

Ahmadinejad Speaks

At a recent speaking engagement in the Iranian city of Kermanshah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a few things to say that amounted to, "Hey, President Obama - put up or shut up."

"When they say 'we want to make changes', change can happen in two ways. First is a fundamental and effective change ... The second ... is a change of tactics.

"It is very clear that, if the meaning of change is the second one, this will soon be revealed."

This is a clear opportunity, and one that Iran has offered to the US in the past. In several posts on my blog I have advocated direct talks with the Islamic Republic despite the assault on our Embassy and the taking of US hostages in 1979. The reason is abundantly simple - Iran is a regional power, and its reach exceeds ours at the moment.

Sure, their military would be hammered by ours, but in the real world (outside of neocon fantasies) power is measured in ways other than sheer force majeure. Iran has proxies in Lebanon and can support Hamas in Palestine. Thanks to our crippling of Iraq Iran is now the 800-pound gorilla in the region.

We have to talk to Iran.

Another thing the Iranian President called for was for an apology by the United States, which dovetails with my advocacy of the same tactic. Democracy in Iran was aborted in the Mossadegh coup (Operation Ajax) in 1956. To say we had a hand in this is like saying that we had a hand in beating Hitler.

We toppled a democratically elected leader and supported an absolutist despot (Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, for those who need reminding), who used a secret police to help enforce his rule. Scant wonder, therefore, that Iran would like an apology.

I suggested in the past that we should preface any talks with an apology for Operation Ajax as a gesture of our goodwill and our benign intentions. It would get things off on the right foot and show the Iranian people (and, more importantly, the religious leaders who are the true power in the government) that we're serious.

So, Ahmadinejad speaks.

Will we listen?

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