To avoid war with Iran, Obama must change his tone and strike a deal
Israel warns time is running out to stop Iran's nuclear program. If the US wants to avoid military strikes on Iran, it must stop talking out of both sides of its mouth – offering carrots and sticks. As new talks are planned, its policy must instead acknowledge Iran's culture and political realities.
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Contrary to the popular perspective in the West, the Iranians will not bow to the pressure policy; it will only lead to non-communication and block the road to meaningful negotiations. Under these conditions, an accidental or intentional war becomes even more likely. As former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has put it, “the more you lean towards compulsion, the more the choice becomes war if it doesn’t work.”Skip to next paragraph
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The US must adjust its policy along the following key lines. First, it should abandon the terms of carrot and stick as well as the language of threat and intimidation, replacing them with a respectful tone. Second, Washington must abandon the “all-options-are-on-the-table” mantra, replacing it with a policy of negotiations that put all parties on an equal basis.
Third, the US can build trust with Iran by supporting a nuclear-free Middle East. While critics would label such a policy stand unrealistic and such a regional agreement far-fetched, it may be in the best interests of both Israel and Iran. Indeed many obstacles stand in its way, but working out a monitored agreement where both Israel and Iran give up nuclear weapons capacity in some way would protect both countries and deescalate a standoff that boils hotter by the moment. The US supporting such a working move could bring Israel and Iran into an indirect, if not direct, overdue dialogue.
Insisting on zero-enrichment for Iran seems to have already become unrealistic. Instead, the US should now focus on preventing Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium, and to do so, the International Atomic Energy Agency must put Iran’s nuclear sites under strict and intrusive monitoring.
In fact, Iran is likely to accept this condition, and it may even accept a partial suspension of uranium enrichment altogether – as long as the perceived “bullying” policy is abandoned. Agreeing to such a measure lets the Iranian regime save face (it was not forced into abandoning a nuclear program it swore to continue) and also satisfies American concerns over Iran’s potential development of nuclear weapons.
Hooshang Amirahmadi is a professor and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University. He is also president of the American Iranian Council. Shahir Shahidsaless is a political analyst and freelance journalist. He writes primarily about Iranian domestic and foreign affairs.