Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How to Defuse Iran

In this excellent opinion editorial published by the New York Times yesterday, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett argue that "Since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei’s death in 1989, United States policy toward Iran has not served American interests. Neither continuing to disregard legitimate Iranian interests nor timid incrementalism will improve the situation. In the long run, the real lesson of the new National Intelligence Estimate is that we need a comprehensive overhaul of American policy toward Iran." They also outline exactly what a new approach in U.S. policy toward Iran would look like.

The U.S. should:

  • Address Iran’s security by clarifying that Washington is not seeking regime change in Tehran, but rather changes in the Iranian government’s behavior
  • Promise that it would not use force to change Iran’s borders or form of government.
  • Assuming that American concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities, provision of military equipment and training to terrorist organizations, and opposition to a negotiated Arab-Israeli settlement were satisfactorily addressed, Washington would also pledge to end unilateral sanctions against Iran, re-establish diplomatic relations and terminate Tehran’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Iran should:
  • Carry out measures — negotiated with the United States, other major powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency — definitively addressing the proliferation risks posed by its nuclear activities, include disclosing all information relating to its atomic program, past and present, now being sought by the atomic energy agency, and agreeing to an intrusive inspections regime of any fuel cycle activities on Iranian soil.
  • Issue a statement supporting a just and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on current United Nations Security Council resolutions.
  • Pledge to stop providing military supplies and training to terrorist organizations and to support the transformation of Hamas and Hezbollah into exclusively political and social-welfare organizations.
The authors conclude:
"Even if both sides agreed to such bilateral steps, a lasting rapprochement could be achieved only if Washington and Tehran worked out a more cooperative approach to regional security. The obvious first step would be collaborating on a plan to stabilize Iraq, acting in concert with that country’s other neighbors...The goal of such cooperation would be a multilateral body analogous to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe."

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