Thursday, February 19, 2004

# Posted 6:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE IRANIAN STUDENTS FIRE A SHOT AGAINST KERRY: We just received a copy of an open letter sent to the Senator's office by the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran. Like all of the best Persian literature, it's fairly lengthy - but the substantive bit is in these paragraphs:
We have read how you refer to the theocratic regime in Iran as a "democracy;" we have heard how, if elected, as the president of the United States you intend to "engage" this barbaric regime; this very terrorist regime that your own State Department lists as the most active "State Sponsor of
Terrorism." Why is it, Senator, in all your statements, you don't, even once, mention the oppressed and suffering masses of Iran? Obviously, as long as there is such preoccupation with appeasing the regime the people of Iran don't even enter your equation!

But, Senator, on February 8, 2004, Tehran Times, Mehr News Agency, as well the newspapers in the United States reported that: "The office of Senator John Kerry, the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary in the U.S., sent the Mehr News Agency an E-mail saying that Kerry will try to repair the damage done by the incumbent president if he wins the election." [Note: the email the students are referring to is here.] And, includes your statement: "... America needs the kind of leadership that will repair alliances with countries on every continent that have been so damaged in the past few years, as well as build new friendships and overcome tensions with others." Adding further: "He believes that collaboration with other countries is crucial to efforts to win the war on terror and make America safer."

Sir, diplomacy does not mean strengthening totalitarian regimes at the expense and the agony of the citizens of that country. Protracting the Islamic Republic's survival in Iran would only prolong our pain and suffering.
It goes on for a bit (and on, and on, God love 'em), but the students' letter does raise the interesting question of what Senator Kerry's views are toward Iran, especially as he increasingly becomes the presumptive Democratic nominee - and, moreover, how these will evolve and change during the course of the campaign. Senator Kerry's spoken on Iran once before in a major foreign policy speech (at the candidates' obligatory courtesy call on the Pratt House):
Iran also presents an obvious and especially difficult challenge. Our relations there are burdened by a generation of distrust, by the threat of nuclear proliferation and by reports of al Qaeda forces in that country, including the leadership responsible for the May 13th bombings in Saudi Arabia.

But the Bush administration stubbornly refuses to conduct a realistic, non-confrontational policy with Iran, even where it may be possible, as we witnessed most recently in the British-French-German initiative.

As president, I will be prepared early on to explore areas of mutual interest with Iran, just as I was prepared to normalize relations with Vietnam a decade ago. Iran has long expressed an interest in cooperating against the Afghan drug trade. That is one starting point. And just as we have asked that Iran turn over al Qaeda members who are there, the Iranians have looked to us for help in dealing with Iraq-based terrorists who threaten them. It is incomprehensible and unacceptable that this administration refuses to broker an arrangement with Iran for a mutual crackdown on both terrorist groups.


And as president, I will engage Iran and I will renew bilateral negotiations immediately with North Korea, and I will seek a new international protocol to track and account for existing nuclear weapons and to deter the development of chemical and biological arsenals in the future.
I can see how that would give the student protesters heartburn. It will be interesting, though, to see how Senator Kerry's views evolve during the course of the campaign, especially as he's often shown an admirable willingness to bend them to respond to the rough-and-tumble of politics.

UPDATE: A reader just called the Kerry campaign, and was told that the Iranian news agency received the Kerry position paper by subscribing to his website:
One of his staff (Heather can't-recall-last-name) explained that Kerry's campaign website offers visitors the ability to sign up to receive email from the Kerry campaign. Someone at the Iranian news agency signed up and THAT is how they received the position paper from Kerry. The article in the Tehran Times made it sound as though Kerry had emailed them specifically. That was not the case.
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