Former Secretaries of State Call for Engaging Iran

Posted: 28 Mar 2008 08:42 AM CDT

On March 27, five former Secretaries of state from both Republican and Democratic administrations said the next president should open talks with Iran, each saying it was important to maintain contact with adversaries and allies alike. Colin L Powell, Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher and Madeleine K. Albright spoke at a round-table discussion sponsored by the University of Georgia. They also reached consensus that the next administration should close the Guantanamo Bay prison because of its legal implications and the damage it has done to America’s image abroad.

Madeleine Albright stressed the importance of finding "common ground," and Warren Christopher urged diplomats to explore opening contact with other "vectors of power," such as clerics and former political leaders.

James A. Baker III suggested the dialogue could center on a common dilemma, saying a "dysfunctional Iraq, a chaotic Iraq, is not something that's in the interest to Iran. There's every incentive on their part to help us, the same way they did in Afghanistan." His comments were consistent with recommendations that were included in the 2006 Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report that called for engaging Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria. Henry Kissinger said, "One has to talk with adversaries.  Colin Powell compared the potential talks to difficult visits he made as Secretary of State to Syria, "They are not always pleasant visits. But you've got to do it."