Critical talks: Kerry must have a free hand on Iran

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On Thursday in Geneva will begin the second critical meeting between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, including the United States, plus Germany that can result in at least an interim resolution of the longstanding, dangerous problem surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

The stakes are high. One risk is of the United States becoming involved in yet another Middle Eastern war, with the eight-year Iraq war having been terminated in 2011 and the end of the presence of the United States in the 12-year-long, costly Afghanistan conflict scheduled for the end of next year. Some parties to the Iran dispute favor either a U.S. attack on Iran, if it does not agree to controls on its nuclear program, or U.S. support of an Israeli attack on Iran, which would inevitably lead to eventual U.S. involvement in a regional war.

Another element in the U.S. calculation in arriving at an agreement that would represent the beginning of the end of 34 years of hostilities with Iran is the opportunities that would open for American companies for the resumption of a fruitful economic and commercial relationship. With the economic sanctions currently imposed on Iran winding down, the window would be open to resume what until 1979 were profitable trade and investment exchanges between the two countries. In 1978, prior to the revolution there, the United States was Iran’s second largest trading partner, with $3.7 billion in exports.

It is important at this point that Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who is very directly involved in making these negotiations successful and who understands all their ramifications, is given a free hand to get the best deal for America that he can get. He should be free to do so with reference only to America’s interests, taking into account but not bound by pressures from Iranian exiles in the United States, the Israeli political faction represented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, France or other foreign parties.

These talks are important, they can come out well for the United States, and the timing appears to be right for agreement.

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