December 11, 2009

U.S.-Iran Policy Up for Debate

Washington, DC – “If we approach diplomacy with the same sustainability, with the same stamina, with the same dedication, with the same determination, that we would pursue a military confrontation then we would see a different picture,” NIAC President Trita Parsi said Tuesday on the P-5+1 engagement with Iran. Parsi’s comments were part of a debate with Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council, on U.S. policy on Iran held at the Metropolitan Club Tuesday.

Parsi contended that our inability to reach a nuclear deal with Iran was “a setback,” but not the end of the road for diplomacy. The ball is in Iran’s court, Parsi asserted, and he argued that political infighting Iran was disabling the government from reaching a consensus on nuclear diplomacy. At the same time, Parsi pointed out, the U.S. should not reduce Iran to a single issue-enrichment-which just happens to the issue in which the U.S. has “the least amount of leverage.” Instead, Parsi believes the US should broaden the agenda in its engagement with Iran, especially by ending the Obama administration’s silence on Iranian human rights abuses.

Berman characterized Parsi’s narrative, in which he noted the Bush administration’s alienation of Iran, as “fairly Bush-centric,” arguing that “doing nothing is not an option.” He contended that the Iranians do not see the nuclear program as a “bargaining chip,” but as “an element of regime stability” and national prestige. He argued that sanctions against Iran had not been applied robustly enough yet, saying that if they had been applied properly, there would have been a greater impact on the Iranian government.

Moderator Davis Robinson, who served as a legal advisor to the State Department when sanctions were being employed against Libya, criticized the U.S.’s track record of “unilateral, feel-good” sanctions, which have been ineffective against Iran. He said, “If we are going to have sanctions, they have to be worldwide, multilateral sanctions,” with the support of China and Russia.




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