Like a bad dream, Iran’s uranium enrichment program and sponsorship of Hezbollah continue plague the United States night after night, while no one really knows how to make it go away. This is why the Bush administration has adopted a policy of “kicking the can down the road,” meantime hoping that the International Atomic Energy Agency and the EU do something about Iran.
But as we all know, if you want a thing done right, do it yourself, especially where the European allies are concerned; they have no interest in looking out for Iran's and America’s best interests.
When dealing with Iran, the Democratic policy elites have no alternative policy, either. Their difference with Republicans over Iran is literally about whose turn it is for kicking the can of “no-option-can-be-taken-off-the-table” down the road.
Take Obama, for example, who have made too much fuss about Iraq and little of Iran by repeating exactly what Vice President Cheney once said that the
administration had not “taken any options off the table”. Obama pretty much
repeated the same, “we should take no option, including military action, off
the table,” reported in the New York Times.
Although all serious analysts agree that there are a variety of possible options to deal with Iran, they usually accord the primacy of some type of alternative over the others, treating the rest as background. Logically, we need a policy that brings together options that by themselves are insufficient conditions. That is, “X,” “Y,” and “Z” may be necessary conditions but will not be sufficient condition unless they occur simultaneously or in a particular sequence. In dealing with Iran, three options appear to be necessary and sufficient: (1) economic cooperation; (2) diplomacy; and (3) security.
The United States must be prepared to take the lead and synthesizes these three options into a smart diplomacy, in which the economic incentives and security guarantees are treated as integral part to diplomatic bargaining. The reluctance to offer sanction relief, trade and investment, and new security arrangement in the Persian Gulf while talking to Tehran, brings about little if any strategic result on those issue America seeks to influence, since the Iranian regime believes rightly that it is the United Stated who is intruder the region and not the other way around. In other words, coercive diplomacy based on threats is never a good idea.
Equally bad idea, it is to go to war against Iran since it will engulf the entire region and it might lead to a change in the regional balance of power that would be disastrous for the United States. War would perpetuate violence and instability, not reduce them.
Indeed, Iran today is one of the few countries in the entire Middle East where the people are pro-American. Invading Iran would also unite all Iran against the United States. More importantly, Iran is undergoing rapid socio-political changes, in which demand for reform and more participation in politics and decision-making have become constitutive features of Iranian politics.
The US should adopt a strategy that deepens and expands this reform movement, with canceling its containment strategy and embark on a policy of unconditional dialogue and sanctions relief. Financial tool of sanction alone would never rise to the level of hardship that the regime cannot endure. During its 8-year war with Iraq, Iran has faced stronger sanctions than those now under discussion, yet never conceded to a single Iraqis demand or the international community’s demand for that matter.
The smart diplomacy proposed here is an effective policy toward Iran:
forceful yet peaceful, less risky than war, and more assertive than toothless
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