Five former U.S. secretaries of state on Monday stated their support for talks with Iran, with all five saying the United States should not wait to launch diplomatic engagements with the Islamic Republic.
The former chief diplomats, Madeleine K. Albright; James A. Baker, III; Warren Christopher; Henry A. Kissinger; and Colin L. Powell issued their support for talks during a roundtable discussion entitled "The Next President: A World of Challenges," held at Washington D.C.'s George Washington University.
Moderator Christiane Amanpour of CNN asked the diplomats how they would respond if Iran said it is ready to make a deal with the U.S. after the upcoming elections, Kissinger said, "I'm in favor of negotiating with Iran," noting that the main concern is whether a nuclear weapon could make its way into the hands of a non-state actor
Albright also issued her support for talks, saying, "We need to engage with Iran. You have to deal with countries you have a problem with."
Albright added that the issue is more serious because the war in Iraq has strengthened Iran. She also said the U.S. has an inaccurate view of Iranian society, saying, "Ahmadinejad is not particularly popular, and we don't understand Iranian society, it's not monolithic."
Powell issued a harsh rebuke to those who would stonewall the Islamic Republic, saying, "We should start to talk to them and not wait till later. What are we afraid of?"
The former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also said the U.S. could use economic aid as a means of thawing relations with Iran, saying, "I had one meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister. I said to him: "What's the major problem facing Iran today?" He said: "We have a young population and we have to create jobs - they have major economic problems, now that's something we can deal with."
Former Clinton administration secretary of state Warren Christopher highlighted U.S. military shortcomings in the need to pursue talks, saying, "We cannot afford not to have a dialogue, the military options are very poor."
The former secretaries of state also were asked who they endorsed for president, with James Baker III, secretary of state under George H.W. Bush's administration, issuing his support for John McCain and Albright saying "I'm supporting Senator Obama, it will send a message of diversity."
Powell said he hadn't yet decided who he's supporting because "there's too much talk about lipstick and pigs," adding, "we must move beyond issues of heroism or color, and ask, Who's going to have the best economic policy and bring the best judgment?
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