The seven major nations and Iran have extended their talks concerning Iran's development of nuclear power. Now would also be an appropriate time to expand the scope of the talks, to include more immediate problems in the Middle East. The nations represented in Vienna all have a stake in the outcome, which was supposed to have been reached by June 30. The extension may be a blessing in disguise.
During the talks, the situation in the Middle East has worsened, with Egypt now dealing with attacks by ISIL, the terrorist group that recognizes no government nor is beholden to the usual rules of modern warfare, cruel as they are.
The world is an untidy place at best, but ISIL has moved warfare closer to the tactics of Ghengis Khan, with terror being a weapon more effective than the modern weapons the U.S. is sending to the forces trying to establish some semblance of order.
Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Saudia Arabia -- all are threatened by the violence, and all are represented to an extent at the conference in Vienna.
Iran's development of nuclear power is in the distant future if ever. ISIL's threat is here and now, and there is a realistic opportunity to stifle it and end the killing and destruction which seems to spread by the day.
A unified and determined effort by the nations represented at Vienna could achieve that goal within weeks -- even days -- and the United States should lead the effort to create such an alliance.
What a great opportunity all of these nations have today with their top diplomats already gathered in conference and at least in some agreement. Iran started the week with a significant agreement to reduce its stock of enriched uranium that could be used for nuclear weapons.
Isn't that what the Vienna talks were all about? But they should now be about much more ... If ISIL prevails in any of the countries where it is fighting to extend its influence, it could gain access to nuclear weapons with far less constraints on using them than Iran. The simple fact is that Pakistan, India, Israel, several former Russian satellites, and probably more nations already have nuclear weapons. The goal must be to discourage them from using them, which is not an unreasonable goal, considering that the U.S. has had nuclear weapons since 1945, and Russia since 1953, and they have never been employed but once. Iran does not even have such weapons and their development is costly and dangerous. Iran is still essentially a third-world economy struggling to move to second-world status. It could become a solution in the Middle East, rather than a problem.
ISIL is already weakening. Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq have consistently forced them to retreat; a unified effort in Syria would rescue that shattered nation, and the U.S. should force Iraq's regime to make a better effort before another American soldier or weapon is dispatched.
ISIL has been built up in the public mind as a mysterious and dominant force, but the evidence on the ground does not support that theory. It is remindful of how Saddam Hussein's army was depicted in 1990 as being so powerful, then it dissolved in a few days after the American military went in, as it did 11 years later in 2003. Iraq has been exposed as a paper tiger, time and time again, including by ISIL, which has no national entity behind it, has no air force to speak of; and no modern arsenal of weaponry.
President Obama should take an active role in the Vienna negotiations, exerting U.S. muscle on Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Iraq, This could be a chance to encourage -- or demand -- recognition of Israel as legitimate rather than trying to strangle Iran's nuclear program.
Iran is also accused of being a major supporter of Islamic terrorists: Give them a reason to abandon that role in exchange for better health and sanitation conditions; less reason to fear an attack from Israel, which has been threatened. Iran's ayatollahs speak loudly but carry small sticks, as was seen in their 9-year war with Iraq which ended in a draw, despite U.S. help to Iran.
Surely the negotiators in Vienna can find room on their agenda to look at more immediate threats to those nations than nuclear power which for more than 75 years has proven more symbolic than deadly.
Peace is difficult, but President Jimmy Carter proved it is possible when by force of will, he negotiated the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979. Observers said it would never last, but 36 years later the two nations that had been bitter enemies before the Camp David accords are still at peace. Maybe Carter, now 90, should offer some advice to the negotiators in Vienna.
Millard Grimes, editor of the Columbus Enquirer from 1961-69 and founder of the Phenix Citizen. is author of "The Last Linotype: The Story of Georgia and Its Newspapers Since World War II."