" />

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

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.


Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the Senate’s more vocal hawks, and one of the prime vacillators among Republicans between objecting to and supporting Donald Trump.


Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s special envoy to Venezuela, is a neoconservative with a long record of hawkish positions and actions, including lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra affair.


Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump second secretary of state, has driven a hawkish foreign policy in Iran and Latin America.


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is known for his hawkish views on foreign policy and close ties to prominent neoconservatives.


Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is known for her lock-step support for Israel and is widely considered to be a future presidential candidate.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

François Nicoullaud, the former French ambassador to Iran, discusses the ups and downs of Iran-France relations and the new US sanctions.


Effective alliances require that powerful states shoulder a far larger share of the alliance maintenance costs than other states, a premise that Donald Trump rejects.


The new imbroglio over the INF treaty does not mean a revival of the old Cold War practice of nuclear deterrence. However, it does reveal the inability of the West and Russia to find a way to deal with the latter’s inevitable return to the ranks of major powers, a need that was obvious even at the time the USSR collapsed.


As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump appeared to recognize the obvious problem of the revolving door. But as the appointment of Patrick Shanahan, who spent 30 years at Boeing, as the Trump administration’s acting secretary of defense reveals, little has changed. America is indeed great again, if you happen to be one of those lucky enough to be moving back and forth between plum jobs in the Pentagon and the weapons industry.


Domestic troubles, declining popularity, and a decidedly hawkish anti-Iran foreign policy team may combine to make the perfect storm that pushes Donald Trump to pull the United States into a new war in the Middle East.


The same calculus that brought Iran and world powers to make a deal and has led remaining JCPOA signatories to preserve it without the U.S. still holds: the alternatives to this agreement – a race between sanctions and centrifuges that could culminate in Iran obtaining the bomb or being bombed – would be much worse.


With Bolton and Pompeo by his side and Mattis departed, Trump may well go with his gut and attack Iran militarily. He’ll be encouraged in this delusion by Israel and Saudi Arabia. He’ll of course be looking for some way to distract the media and the American public. And he won’t care about the consequences.


RightWeb
share