" />

Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

U.S.-Iranian Engagement: When and How?

On Norouz, the day when Iranians celebrate the coming of spring and the new Iranian calendar year, U.S. President Barack Obama took the helm of American foreign policy towards Iran and dramatically communicated his will to chart a new course away from the failed policies of the past. “My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us,” Obama said in a video message to Iranians.

But given the upcoming Iranian presidential elections in June, the real challenge for the United States is when and how to further engage Iran. Obama understands that there are vast areas of convergence between the United States and Iran when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, and many more areas where constructive engagement could produce tangible results for both sides. Earlier this month Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the administration’s plan to invite Iran to a conference on Afghanistan. This meeting, scheduled for next week, could be the launching point for shared action.

For instance, the United States and Iran could cooperate to prevent the trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan into Iran, and from there to the rest of the world. The international community would applaud such an undertaking, as it would help to choke the bottleneck of the worldwide opium trade. Stopping drug runners could also help address the immediate political concerns of both Iran and the United States by financially starving some of the groups within the Taliban that benefit from such sales.

Bringing law and order to Iran’s western frontier—where the Iranian army and police are outgunned, outmanned, and outwitted by increasingly aggressive smugglers—would weaken or eliminate drug running outfits. Some of these local operators are in alliance with Al Qaeda, which is waging a two-pronged terrorist campaign against both the United States and Iran, as well as the Shia populations of Pakistan and Iraq.

The announcement of U.S. interest in the shipment of appropriate transportation, reconnaissance, and communications hardware to the areas of Iran bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the “war on drugs” is more than a metaphor, would be enormously popular amongst Iranian civil society as well.

Successive bumper crops of opium and the virtually free flow of drugs into Iran have dropped the price of heroin in Iran’s western provinces lower than that of cigarettes, unleashing an ugly and deeply disheartening epidemic of heroin addiction among Iranians. Many Iranians have witnessed the wasting away and death of young members of their families due to the scourge of cheap and abundant drugs.

One would be hard pressed to imagine a more auspicious opening in Iranian-American relations than scenes of cooperation between the experts of both countries to address a concern common.

But before shared action can occur, diplomatic relations must be reinstated. There is no doubt that a great gesture would speak louder than mere promises of a grand bargain. Any diplomatic approach must be combined with some sort of concrete action. After three decades of missed opportunities, Iranians of all political walks are distrustful of furtive missives delivered by cloaked emissaries.

There is also the vexing question of choosing the right interlocutor for negotiations. Extending a hand directly to the powerful Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would appear to circumvent the democratically elected parliament and president. However, directly approaching the hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad poses the risk of opening negotiations with a less powerful leader who could be in the lame-duck twilight of his presidency. Such an early move by Obama might strengthen Ahmadinejad’s bid for another term.

But Obama can’t afford to wait for the results of the June elections because it might radically diminish the goodwill necessary for negotiations in case of a conservative win.

The best option is to dispatch the message with a U.S. congressional delegation in an attempt at a dialogue between elective bodies.

Regardless of to whom he convey his words, Obama’s goodwill must be readily translatable to dramatic deeds with immediate benefits to both Iran and the United States. Only then can Obama effectively push at the 30-year-old logjam of distrust between the two countries.

Ahmad Sadri is the James P. Gorter chair of Islamic world studies at Lake Forest College in Illinois and is a columnist for the Iranian newspaper Etemade Melli.

Citations

By Ali Gharib, "U.S.-Iranian Engagement: When and How?" Right Web with permission from Common Ground News Service (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2009). Web location:
https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4993.html Production Information:
Author(s): Right Web
Editor(s): Right Web
Production: Political Research Associates   IRC logo 1310 Broadway, #201, Somerville, MA   02144 | pra@publiceye.org

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Erik Prince, former CEO of the mercenary group Blackwater, continues to sell security services around the world as controversies over his work—including in China and the Middle East, and his alleged involvement in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—grow.


Gina Haspel is the first woman to hold the position of director of the CIA, winning her confirmation despite her history of involvement in torture during the Iraq War.


Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) is a pressure group founded in early 2019 that serves as a watchdog and enforcer of Israel’s reputation in the Democratic Party.


Richard Grenell is the U.S. ambassador to Germany for the Donald Trump administration, known for his brusque and confrontational style.


Zalmay Khalilzad is Donald Trump’s special representative to the Afghan peace process, having previously served as ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush.


Robert Joseph played a key role in manipulating U.S. intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq and today is a lobbyist for the MEK.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Saudi/UAE-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The vote marks the first time since the War Powers Act of 1973 became law that both chambers of Congress have directed the president to withdraw American forces from a conflict.


The Trump administration’s failed “maximum pressure” approach to Iran and North Korea begs the question what the US president’s true objectives are and what options he is left with should the policy ultimately fail.


In the United States, it’s possible to debate any and every policy, domestic and foreign, except for unquestioning support for Israel. That, apparently, is Ilhan Omar’s chief sin.


While Michael Cohen mesmerized the House of Representatives and President Trump resumed his love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong, one of the most dangerous state-to-state confrontations, centering in Kashmir, began to spiral out of control.


The Trump administration’s irresponsible withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement undermined Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and emboldened hardliners who accused him of having been deceived by Washington while negotiating the agreement. However, the Iranian government could use the shock of Zarif’s resignation to push back against hardliners and take charge of both the domestic and foreign affairs of the country while Iran’s foreign opponents should consider the risks of destabilizing the government under the current critical situation.


Europe can play an important role in rebuilding confidence in the non-proliferation regime in the wake of the demise of the INF treaty, including by making it clear to the Trump administration that it wants the United States to refrain from deploying INF-banned missiles in Europe and to consider a NATO-Russian joint declaration on non-first deployment.


The decline in Israel’s appeal to Democrats is directly related to the wider awareness of the country’s increasingly authoritarian nature, its treatment of Palestinians, and its reluctance to take substantive steps toward peace. Pro-Israel liberals face a fundamental paradox trying to reconcile Israel’s illiberalism with their political values.


RightWeb
share