For Immediate Release
Washington, DC – On the eve of talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Istanbul, a diverse group of diplomats, arms control experts, Iran experts, democracy and human rights defenders, and leading Iranian-American, Jewish-American, and pro-peace organizations issued a statement urging the Obama Administration to reinvigorate diplomacy with Iran.
The experts include Ambassador John Limbert, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran; Sir Richard Dalton, the former British Ambassador to Iran; Bruno Pellaud, the former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Gary Sick, who served at the NSC as the principal White House adviser on Iran; and Chas Freeman, the former American Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Full text of the statement:
January 20, 2011
As the United States prepares for the upcoming round of multilateral talks with Iran, it is imperative that the Obama Administration reinvigorate its diplomacy by pursuing engagement with Tehran more persistently, setting realistic objectives, and broadening the US-Iranian dialogue. Diplomacy is the only sustainable means of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, avoiding the dangerous folly of military confrontation in the Middle East, and enabling progress in other critical areas of US interest, such as Afghanistan and the human rights situation within Iran.
Reinvigorating diplomacy means seeking to engage Iran more persistently. The upcoming Istanbul meeting is only the fourth meeting on the nuclear issue involving both the United States and Iran, and no breakthrough can be expected without additional talks. Fortunately, time exists to pursue a diplomatic solution. Both US and Israeli officials have made public statements recently acknowledging that Iran remains years away from having the capability to construct a nuclear weapon.
Reinvigorating diplomacy also means pursuing realistic objectives. Unrealistic outcomes, such as insisting that Iran cease uranium enrichment entirely, however desirable, must be set aside. Focus should instead be placed on establishing monitoring and verification mechanisms that can ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is, indeed, used solely for peaceful purposes. Secretary Clinton stated in December that the United States would be prepared to recognize a peaceful enrichment program on Iranian soil. This is a productive step to achieve a satisfactory compromise for which the Administration should be commended.
Finally, reinvigorating diplomacy means addressing issues with Iran beyond the nuclear file. Tehran presents challenges and opportunities in many other areas of importance to US national security, including the stability of Afghanistan and Iraq, drug trafficking, and the human rights situation in Iran itself. The US should seek common ground in all areas of interest and not hold progress in one area hostage to resolution of others. Indeed, progress on human rights or Afghanistan may create a better climate for progress on the nuclear issue. The US engagement agenda must be expanded to reflect this.
Diplomacy with Iran will not be easy and no quick fixes should be expected. Iran must also negotiate in earnest and make the serious compromises necessary for resolution of the nuclear issue. The concerns of the IAEA, the P5+1, and the international community more broadly must be addressed by Iran on the basis of transparency and cooperation. Resolving decades of enmity between the US and Iran will require that both sides work to create openings for successful engagement.
Only reinvigorated diplomacy holds the promise of bridging the many divides between the US and Iran and achieving a sustainable solution that prevents a disastrous military confrontation, prevents an Iranian bomb and the additional proliferation that would follow, and protects the human rights of the Iranian people.
Barry Blechman, co-founder, the Stimson Center