Thursday, December 29, 2005

Iran/Challenge in 2006

My colleague Ray Takeyh, keeping active in the holiday season, has published this comment in today's Baltimore Sun.

The gist of it is that the Europeans cannot resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff because the Europeans cannot deliver the guarantees Iran requires: only the United States can. (This theme--that the United States cannot continue to outsource its diplomatic efforts to other states--was a point raised earlier this year by Congressman Ney at a joint Eurasia Group-The National Interest event.)

Takeyh advises:

"Washington should take a leaf from its North Korea playbook instead of relying on Russian offers to Iran, European diplomacy and cumbersome International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) procedures. A new framework of negotiations featuring the United States, the European Union's Britain, France and Germany, plus Russia and China, combined with a generous offer of security and economic incentives, may be the only way to reverse Iran's nuclear trajectory at this late date."

This echoes a proposal made earlier this fall by Senator Chuck Hagel, speaking at the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations--a Middle East security conference bringing all major powers and actors together.

What is clear is that the U.S. needs an Iran strategy that is prepared to deal with the eventual and likely failure of the EU-3 process and doesn't rely on vague threats that Israel will "do something" about Iran's nuclear program. I'm sure that Takeyh's critics will dislike his approach and recommendation of the North Korea process--but it's up to them to provide an alternative--a realistic one, not one predicated on unverified assumptions.

As usual, I think Takeyh is right on the mark -- the EU-3 process can't give Iran the guarantees of security and non-interference in its internal affairs which would be necessary for a deal. Only we can do that.

But with Ahmedinejad making the sort of inflammatory statements he has over the past couple of weeks, it has become quite a bit harder for the United States to join the sort of negotiating process Takeyh is advocating.

I can't say I'm optimistic at this point.
Someone jokingly said at a recent event that Ahmedinejad was doing such a good job of isolating Iran and making it a pariah, undermining all the work that Khatami had done, he might as well be an American intelligence agent!
Greg--thanks for your post.

The problem as I see it here is that extremist, inflammatory Ahmednijad still doesn't produce a strategy. In the spring 2006 issue of TNI, we're hoping to get some actual estimates and real discussions of what a military campaign against Iran might entail, none of this "we'll be greeted as liberators" and the "mullahs will fall like a house of cards" articles of faith.
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