Former US President Bill Clinton endorsed the idea of talks with Iran and Syria to help ease the bloodletting in Iraq, saying it would also be in Tehran’s interestsClinton spoke in the Netherlands the day after the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that included senior officials from his administration, proposed engaging the two Middle Eastern countries, and US foes, in the search for peace in Iraq.
“I agree that we should reach out to the Iranians and the Syrians and try to get a regional solution. Right now the Iranians don’t want to do anything, probably because their policy seems to be, whatever causes America heartburn is good for us,” Clinton told the Dutch TV program Nova.
“But the truth is there are 1.6 million Iraqi refugees already,” he explained, adding that there could be as many as 10 million if the situation deteriorated to a point similar to the worst days of the Bosnian conflict.
“Most of them would be in Iran. I don’t really think Iran wants that, so I think there may be an opportunity for us all to work together.”
President Bush, however, has objected to that recommendation. He said Iran and Syria “shouldn’t bother to show up” to an international conference on Iraq unless they stop financing terror.
Repeating a long-standing demand, Bush said his administration would not enter direct talks with Iran unless it suspends uranium enrichment, which the U.S. believes is aimed at making nuclear weapons. Iran maintains its nuclear program is peaceful.
Clinton, who was visiting the Netherlands to discuss global warming with business and political leaders, said he also supports the withdrawal of some American troops from Iraq.
“I think if we were to leave as soon as we could physically get out of there, there would be more chaos and more death in the country …. so I don’t favor that,” he said.
But he said pulling out some troops “would send a signal that we’re changing policy, and it, I think, would free up some troops to try to be strong in Afghanistan