Washington should reject the neoconservative agenda and instead reach out to Iran. Many Westerners may find it hard to believe that Iran could ever play a positive role in a conflict of this sort. Yet Iran craves the respect of the international community more than any other commodity one might offer, and relishes the idea that it might be offered a respectful position as a peacemaker. Iran has hinted in the recent past that it would drop its hostile posture toward Israel if relations with the United States were to improve.
Though the Islamic Republic does not directly influence the actions of Hezbollah and Hamas, they offer a way to talk to the two groups. Iran has been willing to serve as mediator in the past in the region, notably in working with Armenia and Azerbaijan, and has garnered bona fides for its efforts.
Vilifying Iran is not doing anyone any good. But talking to them and asking them for a little help might do a great deal to bring peace to the region.
About William O. Beeman teaches Anthropology and directs Middle East Studies at Brown University. He has lived and conducted research in the Mideast for over 30 years. Professor Beeman is the author of Language, Status and Power in Iran and the forthcoming Iraq: State in Search of a Nation.