Monday, March 22, 2010

Domestic v. Foreign Policy; India and Iran

I want to again clarify a point I raised in Friday's World Politics Review column. I am not arguing that there was or is a clear quid pro quo arrangement (cotton subsidies in return for sanctions on Iran). What I am arguing against is the willful blindness of policymakers who decide that there can be no interconnection between these kinds of issues; that another country's decision to adopt our approach on Iran rests solely on the "merits of the case" and that all other issues in the relationship are somehow compartmentalized--the latter only happens when you have an external problem that is equally a threat to both partners. [This is, by the way, why the U.S. and Iran could find common ground on dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.]

Speaking of Iran, a reminder why India's interests in Afghanistan and Iran differ from ours, per Priyanka Bhardwaj.

I wonder if it would be plausible to infer that we have sounded out Brazil and other countries privately and found that no resolution of other differences they have with us (eg. trade) would change their stand on Iran's nuclear status.

We certainly should (on their merits) resolve trade issues, if we can, so that we have a larger reservoir of goodwill in countries whose support we may need at some point in the future. But I would be careful about trying to do so in the context of the present tension with Iran.

The problem I think is not so much that in seeking foreign government support for our security policy we have not taken into account commercial and other causes of friction, but that we have failed to define a compelling new vision of international security itself.

If our view is correct and the world does become a more dangerous place with a nuclear Iran, that fact will do more to convince other countries than anything we can say. What we should have in advance is a vision of a better security framework that we can then propose.
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