Thursday, February 2, 2012

Obama In Iran

How can President Obama deter Iran without war? According to two veteran diplomats, by studying Richard Nixon's opening to China:

Before traveling to Beijing in 1972, Nixon outlined on his ubiquitous yellow pad three analytical pillars of his strategy: What do they want, what do we want and what do we both want? The Chinese, he continued, wanted to “build up their world credentials,” to recover control of Taiwan and to get the United States out of Asia, while the United States wanted to succeed in Indochina, establish communication “to restrain Chinese expansion in Asia” and, in the future, “reduce threat of confrontation by China Super Power.” The United States and China both wanted “to reduce danger of confrontation and conflict, a more stable Asia, a restraint on U.S.S.R.”

In the Shanghai Communiqué, issued at the culmination of the meeting in Beijing, the continuing differences were highlighted, but both sides agreed to expand the common ground between them.

In developing a diplomatic strategy toward Iran, President Obama might respond to Nixon’s three questions as follows: Iran wants recognition of its revolution; an accepted role in its region; a nuclear program; the departure of the United States from the Middle East; and the lifting of sanctions. The United States wants Iran not to have nuclear weapons; security for Israel; a democratic evolution of Arab countries; the end of terrorism; and world access to the region’s oil and gas. Both Iran and the United States want stability in the region — particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan; the end of terrorism from Al Qaeda and the Taliban; the reincorporation of Iran into the international community; and no war.

With those assumptions as a skeleton, the shape of a final agreement with Iran is imaginable.
Comparing the U.S.-Iran dilemma to Nixon's Soviet strategy in October 2009, I ventured a similar if less sophisticated argument:
Is there a package of inducements the U.S. could offer Tehran to persuade it to suspend its nuclear weapons program and cease its threats against us and Israel? That depends on whether Iran is engaged in a quasi-apocalyptic project against Israel and the West or, instead, would be willing to act rationally in pursuit of its security and economic interests. George Will argues that one reason Iran is intent on deploying nuclear weapons is that it fears a U.S. invasion such as the one we mounted against Iraq in 2003. Its fear is warranted. Would its intentions change if it had a reasonable expectation that the U.S. and Israel wouldn't attack? If we could make it worth Iran's while to remain a non-nuclear power, why in the world wouldn't we?

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