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Former Officials Call on Obama to Reinvigorate Iran Diplomacy

Twenty-nine prominent former government officials, diplomats, military officers, and national security experts are calling on the White House to pursue direct negotiations with Iran once the country's new president, Hassan Rouhani, is inaugurated.

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Contact: Jamal Abdi
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Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC - Twenty-nine prominent former government officials, diplomats, military officers, and national security experts are calling on the White House to pursue direct negotiations with Iran once the country's new president, Hassan Rouhani, is inaugurated. In a letter to President Obama today, the group called the election of Iran's new president "a major potential opportunity to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program." 

The letter comes as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has called for ratcheting up sanctions and threats of military action, and Congress is reportedly mulling a new round of sanctions. The letter cautions that "diplomacy will only succeed if we are prepared to leverage existing sanctions and other incentives in exchange for reciprocal Iranian concessions," and said that "in the leadup to Rouhani’s inauguration, it is critical that all parties abstain from provocative actions that could imperil this diplomatic opportunity."

"It remains to be seen whether this opportunity will yield real results," reads the letter. "But the United States, Iran, and the rest of the international community cannot afford to miss or dismiss the potential opportunity before us."

The full letter is below:

July 15, 2013

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500 

Dear President Obama,

The election of Hassan Rouhani to be Iran’s next president presents a major potential opportunity to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. We strongly encourage your Administration to seize the moment to pursue new multilateral and bilateral negotiations with Iran once Rouhani takes office and to avoid any provocative action that could narrow the window of opportunity for a more moderate policy out of Tehran.

Once the new president has been inaugurated, the United States should pursue coordinated multilateral engagement on the nuclear issue through the P5+1. Additionally, the U.S. should prepare to redouble its efforts to pursue direct, bilateral negotiations with Iran to engage on issues beyond the nuclear file, such as human rights and regional security. After assessing the orientation of the new Iranian government, the U.S. and partners should prepare to offer a new set of proposals to limit Iran’s enrichment and nuclear materials stockpiles combined with stringent oversight and verification measures.

While it will take time to secure an agreement to resolve all concerns, diplomacy will only succeed if we are prepared to leverage existing sanctions and other incentives in exchange for reciprocal Iranian concessions. Further, in the leadup to Rouhani’s inauguration, it is critical that all parties abstain from provocative actions that could imperil this diplomatic opportunity. For the U.S., no further sanctions should be imposed or considered at this time as they could empower hardliners opposed to nuclear concessions at the expense of those seeking to shift policy in a more moderate direction.

It remains to be seen whether this opportunity will yield real results. But the United States, Iran, and the rest of the international community cannot afford to miss or dismiss the potential opportunity before us. In the past, when one side has failed to seize an opportunity to resolve the standoff between the U.S. and Iran, it has only produced worse outcomes and diminishing options. Given the current state of Iran’s nuclear capability, the heightened tensions in the region, and the potential for a confrontation, all parties involved should be ready and willing to seize this opportunity to achieve diplomatic progress towards a peaceful resolution of the standoff.

Sincerely,

Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center

Prof. Juan Cole, University of Michigan

Prof. Farideh Farhi, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Amb. Chas Freeman, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Lt. General Robert G. Gard, Jr. Former President of National Defense University

Col. Sam Gardiner, United States Air Force, Retired

Morton Halperin, former Special Assistant to the President, Senior Director for Democracy at the National Security Council, and State Department Director of Policy Planning

General Joseph P. Hoar, former Commander in Chief, United States Central Command

Amb. Steen Hohw-Christensen, former Ambassador of Sweden to Iran

Amb. Peter Jenkins, former Ambassador of the UK to the IAEA

Amb. Dennis Jett, Professor of International Affairs, Penn State University

Brig. General John Johns, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense

Larry Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense

Amb. John Limbert, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran

Reza Marashi, former Iran Desk officer, US Department of State; Research Director, National Iranian American Council

Alireza Nader, Iran analyst

Amb. François Nicoullaud, former Ambassador of France to Iran

Dr. Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council

Bruno Pellaud, former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency

Amb. Thomas Pickering, former Under Secretary of State

Paul Pillar, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, Central Intelligence Agency

Gary Sick, Iran specialist on National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan; Columbia University

Anne-Marie Slaughter, former State Department Director of Policy Planning 

 John Steinbruner, Director, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, University of Maryland

Greg Thielman, former Director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office in the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Amb. Roberto Toscano, former Ambassador of Italy to Iran

Dr. Jim Walsh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program (SSP)

Wayne White, former Deputy Director of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence

Col. Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Gen. Colin Powell

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