Washington, D.C. – With negotiations with Iran expected to commence soon, the Stimson Center and the US Institute of Peace (USIP) this week released a report, Engagement, Coercion, and Iran’s Nuclear Challenge, offering recommendations for a successful engagement strategy. The report’s authors, USIP’s Daniel Brumberg, Stimson co-founder Barry Blechman, and USIP’s Steven Heydemann, convened a panel discussion on Tuesday to discuss what Brumberg described as a “road map” for successful engagement with Iran.
The US and EU must communicate “a comprehensive picture of what Tehran has to gain from a mutually acceptable agreement on the nuclear issue,” according to the report. Accordingly, the authors recommend a “recalibration of efforts” to rebalance the current dual-track approach so that the US is not faced with a choice between either military options, which the group strongly warned against, or an undesirable containment and deterrence posture towards a nuclear Iran.
The panel supported the enforcement of UN sanctions to increase costs on Iran, but the group cautioned that sanctions are not an end unto themselves and US efforts cannot be successful without a “reinvigoration” of engagement. “Our tactical focus on sanctions has come at the expense of strategic engagement,” said Brumberg. “Sanctions will not elicit Iran’s cooperation.”
Thus, the US should simultaneously offer a “package of robust incentives” to provide compelling reasons for Iran to cooperate, said the authors. They recommend that the US be prepared to recognize Iran’s right for a peaceful enrichment program under international safeguards, while ultimately seeking “internationalization of all nuclear fuel services” that would end Iran’s domestic enrichment. The US and allies should also offer assistance to modernize Iran’s energy sector to help create a region-wide gas and electric grid, which would provide Iran a better long-term energy solution than nuclear energy.
Additionally, to help foster successful talks, the report recommends that the US remove restrictions barring American diplomats from communicating with their Iranian colleagues and indicate a readiness to reduce and eventually eliminate sanctions in conjunction with progress on engagement.
Warning against the use of force, Blechman said that military strikes “would trigger uncertainty and conflict throughout the Middle East and ultimately fracture the U.S. coalition.” The report warns that “Even veiled allusions to the ‘military option’ reinforce those Iranian hardliners who argue that Iran requires nuclear weapons to deter the US, and protect Tehran’s security and freedom of action.”
USIP’s Steve Heydemann, discussed Iran’s regional and global relations, and urged that the US not spurn the efforts of countries like Turkey and Brazil who can help foster diplomatic initiatives that are acceptable to Iran while addressing US and European concerns. “The US has not made an effective use of these key interlocutors,” said Heydeman, “and they need to provide a more robust role.”