IN AN INTERVIEW with the Washington Post published yesterday, Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards promised that a Kerry administration would offer a "grand bargain" to the totalitarian theocracy in Iran. This "grand bargain" would allow the Islamic state to keep its nuclear power plants in exchange for a promise to give up the kind of nuclear fuel used to make bombs.

This is a dangerous proposal and should receive close scrutiny.

First, the Kerry team has apparently learned nothing from the disastrous deal the Clinton administration made with North Korea back in the 1990s. Edwards's proposal for a "grand bargain" with Iran is almost identical to the Clinton administration's 1994 Agreed Framework deal. In that earlier "bargain," North Korea promised to halt work on nuclear weapons in return for American assistance with "peaceful" nuclear programs. We now know that the North Korean government lied all along and used the agreement to proceed with its nuclear weapons programs.

But the Kerry team is undeterred by this record of failure. In fact, Edwards's proposal is of a piece with Kerry's generally soft approach to dangerous regimes like the one in Teheran. Back in March, Kerry told the Council on Foreign Relations that he wanted to carry out a "non-confrontational" policy toward Iran that emphasizes areas of "mutual interest."

Being "non-confrontational" with Iran apparently means not raising troubling matters, such as Iran's ongoing support for terrorism. In outlining his proposed "grand bargain" with the Iranian government, Edwards completely ignored the fact that a number of senior ranking al Qaeda officials now live and operate in Iran under the Iranian government's protection. Richard Clarke has stated that he regards the connection between Iran and al Qaeda as very dangerous. Yet John Edwards does not insist that his "grand bargain" must include a promise by Iran to cut off all ties with al Qaeda and to turn over those al Qaeda operatives on Iranian soil. Undoubtedly, this is all part of Kerry's and Edwards's strategy for waging a "more sensitive" war on global terrorism.

Kerry and Edwards believe the failed policies of the 1990s remain suitable to the post-September 11 era. We doubt a majority of Americans will agree.

Tom Donnelly is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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