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New Book Offers Prescription For Iran Talks

Policy analyst David Makovsky and White House Middle East adviser Dennis Ross are offering what they call a hybrid diplomatic option for dealing with Iran: engagement without preconditions, but with pressure.

They offer their approach in a new book, Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.

"We're giving them [Iran] an unmistakable opportunity that if they want to join the international community, we're giving them the way to do so," Makovsky tells Robert Siegel. "At the same time, we're consulting with all our allies, with Russia and China, and saying to them, 'You want us to talk to Iran?' We have to convey to Iran that there are clear economic and other consequences for failure."

In other words: No preconditions for Iran, but preconditions for U.S. allies in Europe on being prepared to impose sanctions if talks fail.

Makovsky says past incidents have shown Iran is willing to talk. In 2004, after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in neighboring Iraq, Iran's rulers feared U.S. military action. So, in a fax to the White House, Iran said it was willing to talk about all issues, including its nuclear program, and its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, which are on the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. The Bush administration did not respond to the fax.

"This was a moment that was a clear opening, and I think it was missed," Makovsky says.

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