Feb 28, 2009

On Iran, an Apostle of Patience

TehranImage via Wikipedia


Thursday, February 26, 2009; Page A19

If you ask White House officials whom President Obama listens to about Iran, they mention an interesting name -- Lee Hamilton, the former congressman from Indiana who co-chaired the 2006 Iraq Study Group that urged engagement with the Iranian regime.

So I called Hamilton this week at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, where he serves as president, to ask for his thoughts about strategic dialogue with Tehran. He gave some interesting answers that match (not coincidentally, I suspect) what you hear from senior Obama administration officials. Though Hamilton wouldn't discuss his two meetings with the president since the inauguration, his private advice probably tracks what he told me on the record.

Hamilton cautioned against expecting any quick breakthroughs. He recommended a patient process of engagement that would be analogous to long-term diplomacy with the Soviet Union. "Those of us who favor dialogue with the Iranians have to be clear that success will not come quickly," he said. "You'll have to have direct, sustained engagement over a long period of time."