(CNSNews.com) - A retired general critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror said Thursday that Hizballah's "victory" over Israel gives the terrorist organization and one of its main supporters - Iran - credibility. Retired Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Hoar said the United States should invite Iran and Hizballah into negotiations.
"The problem that existed for the last month between Hizballah and Israel and its effect on Lebanon makes the need to negotiate (with Iran) even more critical," Hoar said in a conference call with reporters. "Hizballah is clearly coming out of this a winner.
"The way to diffuse this," he said of tensions between the United States and Iran, "is not to say Hizballah are the bad guys and that they're losing and that they did lose," Hoar continued. "In the eyes of the Muslim world and indeed most other countries in the world, Hizballah has been the winner."
Hoar said the best way to approach building peace in the Middle East "would be to try and diffuse this by starting right at the top with Iran and finding a way to bring them to the table."
"Real progress will be made only when the U.S. government enters into direct, no prior conditions negotiations with Iran," Hoar continued, "because of legitimacy and respect, both of which Iran wants and only the U.S. government can provide."
Hoar made the comments while announcing an open letter to President Bush signed by 21 former military leaders and national security experts. The letter - which Hoar's public relations firm, Fenton Communications, provided to other media outlets, but not to Cybercast News Service - criticizes the Bush administration's "hard line" policy toward Iraq and Iran.
According to a Fenton Communications news release announcing the conference call, the letter says the Bush administration's Middle East policies have "proven ineffective and counterproductive in safeguarding national security."
In 2004, Hoar signed another open letter critical of Bush amid "serious allegations of wrongdoing in U.S. military and intelligence detention and interrogation practices in the global 'war on terror,'" referring specifically to prisoner abuse that occurred in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
That letter, written and promoted by Human Rights First, urged Bush to create an independent commission to investigate the allegations of prisoner abuse and other questionable detention tactics.
Curtis Cooper, a spokesman for the State Department declined to comment on the letter, telling Cybercast News Service that the department has already commented extensively on its willingness to negotiate with Iran.
In a May 31 news conference, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States has prepared "a set of benefits should Iran agree to negotiate and negotiate in good faith, having suspended its (nuclear) program; but quite clearly, also a set of penalties or set of potential sanctions should Iran not be willing to act in good faith."
Rice said the United States, with the international community, "demands that [Iran] suspend its enrichment activities and return to negotiations and that if Iran is to have a civil nuclear program, it needs to be one in which the international community can have confidence that they're not trying to build a nuclear weapon under cover of civil nuclear power."
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