Did Henry Kissinger advise direct talks with Iran at the highest levels?
Kissinger gave an interview with Bloomberg Television News Service on March 14, 2008:
‘ “One should be prepared to negotiate, and I think we should be prepared to negotiate about Iran,” Kissinger . . . said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. Asked whether he meant the U.S. should hold direct talks, Kissinger, 84, responded: “Yes, I think we should.” . . . ‘
Not only did he advocate such talks, he personally engaged in them!
‘ “I’ve been in semi-private, totally private talks with Iranians,” he said. “They’ve had put before them approaches that with a little flexibility on their part would, in my view, surely lead to negotiations.” ‘
‘ “It’s not really the willingness to talk, it’s so far the inability to define what we are trying to accomplish,” Kissinger said. “The negotiations depend on a balance of incentives and penalties. Have we got those right at every point? Not at every point.” . . . The Nobel Peace Prize winner said any direct talks between the U.S. and Iran on issues such as the nuclear dispute would be most likely to succeed if they first involved only diplomatic staff and progressed to the level of secretary of state before the heads of state meet.’
So Kissinger envisaged the heads of state meeting. N.B. that would be the US president and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Ahmadinejad as president is a lesser figure in the Iranian system.)
He explicitly said that the talks should begin “without conditions.”
Kissinger did advise a progression from lower level to higher level, despite his call for no pre-conditions.
Kissinger didn’t seem embarrassed at all by the kind of considerations McCain instanced in the debate, of legitimating the Iranian government and the way it talks dirty about Israel by a US president’s meeting with its top leaders.
The difference is that Kissinger is a foreign policy realist and McCain is surrounding himself with Neoconservatives.