A suspicious opportunity for diplomacy
United States should be cautious in negotiations with Iran
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 17:09
For a long time now, Iran has been one of our fiercest antagonists. But with the recent election of President Hassan Rouhani, possibilities for a change in the dynamic may be emerging.
A nuclear Iran has long been potentially the largest international threat. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been open and vocal about his plans to develop a nuclear program. This coming from the same man – a head of government – who repeatedly denied the existence of the Holocaust. And he was clear in his intent to destroy Israel – fused with ripples of anti-Semitism.
But now Rouhani admits to a holocaust – something former President Bill Clinton whimsically mocked during an interview with Piers Morgan. What does it suggest about the world we live in when a president is considered moderate for recognizing the actuality of the Holocaust?
Nevertheless, it should be recognized that Rouhani has taken a step in the right direction – well, a baby step, maybe. But it would not be a baby step for him to agree to allow us to enact oversight ensuring Iran has ceased its endeavor to obtain nuclear weapons and develop a program – something Rouhani has recently said he is open to negotiating in order for the United States to relieve our economic sanctions.
These sanctions have been crippling Iran. Right now, inflation is around 25 percent, according to Reuters, and their unemployment rate is at 12.3 percent, according to the Statistical Center of Iran.
These sanctions are meant to suspend the development of their nuclear energy program, which the supreme leader, Ayotallah Ali Khamenei, has insisted is peaceful. But many are highly skeptical and believe it is all a cover for making an atomic bomb.
So, should our skepticism increase with Rouhani’s recent willingness to participate in dialogue? Hard to know.
But the prospect of diplomatic solution to international conflicts should always be the preferred route of resolution. President Obama was right to say he intends to seek out this option. He has directed Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue these negotiations with Iran’s foreign minister.
Rouhani has indicated he believes they can “arrive at framework to manage our differences.” Suspiciously idealistic, yet plausibly practical, Rouhani’s words are worth exploring further.
But with the prospect of opening negotiations, we should remain skeptical and sustain our pressure while reviewing possibilities for how to proceed.
We think it makes most sense to show Iran we are serious about working with them to ease economic sanctions only under the condition there is a transparent and unobstructed mechanism for us to be sure they have terminated a nuclear program.
With that in mind, we should only agree to ease any sanctions in increments. Little by little, step by step, in a way that says, “you have to earn our trust.”
They also have to demonstrate a willingness to coexist with Israel. It is like child’s play: They don’t need to like each other, but they have to find a way to get along. Rouhani has to give us concrete and definitive reason to believe that he will lead Iran in a new direction. If he is serious about improving the economy and quality of life in his country, he will have to establish a level of respect for the international community – a simple recognition of the humanity of his enemies.
But what we need is not simple. It is complex and multifaceted. What is important is that Obama’s foreign policy encompasses awareness of the many forms of convolution in the Middle East, a complex set of guidelines to achieve a simple goal: stability in the region.
The prospect of a nuclear threat is real and it requires careful and cautious action. The prospect of a diplomatic process to ending a nuclear threat will require the same.