Monday, March 2, 2009
Too Much of a Bad Thing
I am still certainly optimistic about US-Iran relations under Obama, but these comments coming out of a private meeting from Sec. Clinton are more of the same thing. Commenting to the UAE Foreign Minister on whether Iran and US rapprochement is possible, Sec. Clinton reportedly made current US Admin speculation clear by saying, "It’s doubtful that Iran would respond."
We all know that it is doubtful that Iran will respond to the current situation. But respond to what? The US has only said "carrots and sticks", repeatedly, and that the US is willing to 'talk'. It's been the same tired 'clinched fist' analogy that sounds clever, but really makes no sense because if Iran wanted stopped its nuclear enrichment for appeasement the US would certainly look the other way at human rights abuses, just like in regards to China.
But what should Iran be responding to?! Has there been a strategic shift with the change in admins? Yes, but there have been no shifts in substance. Do I sound like Islamic Republic officials? Yes, I probably do, except contrary to Iranian talking heads I am more optimistic. I understand that the US can make better overtures assuring Iran that it is serious about engagement over the failed policies of containment.
Unfortunately the US is at the disadvantage here. We do not want a nuclear weapon in Iran's arsenal. It is in their security interest to have one. They can keep the status quo without sacrificing regime stability. It is the US which needs to do something to halt the status quo or the Islamic Republic will happily go right along.
The US needs to change policies just enough to make Iran stumble back. Not through force, but through shock. Prove the regime wrong in front of its people and truly reach out in some way. Make the first concession in a way that it makes both parties come out as winners. In offering Iran something that makes the regime feel successful, we win too if we can halt weapons enrichment and research, which the intelligence community apparently believes is in process. Too much of the same 'bad' thing from the US will only sustain the Islamic Republic's already very keenly crafted policy of anti-US isolationism.
The world community will not unite against Iran, as Europe, Russia, and others have their own interests at stake. The US is the only player in this game that can make a difference, and only through solid overtures. Just waiting for Iran to make the first actual move will not work. Iran will either be talking to the US, working out an agreement to enrich its own uranium for civilian purposes on its own soil, or will have a nuclear weapon within this admins tenure. Neither are the best options for US interests, but if I had to pick, I think I'd go with the former, and right now is the crucial time to think about thinking about it.