Iran: Renewing the Case for a ‘Grand Bargain’

27 Jul

I support President Obama’s decision to engage diplomatically with Iran with the goal of ceasing their nuclear enrichment efforts. In light of the rapid pace of advancements in Iranian capabilities, it is crucial this process begin as soon as possible and not be open-ended.

For too long, Iran has been allowed to use negotiations as a way to delay sanctions while continuing to advance its nuclear program. The U.S. should engage Iran now. Deferring engagement will only allow Iran to achieve further nuclear capabilities, making the achievement of a successful outcome more difficult.

I also support the “stick” approach of limited sanctions as delineated by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. I do not support prohibition of refined petroleum imports, as this is likely to unduly hurt everyday citizens of Iran and not the ruling regime.

To increase our negotiating leverage with Iran, the United States should include its allies to delineate and spell out sanctions that will be imposed on Iran if negotiations are not successful. Sanctions are having an increasingly negative impact on the development of Iran’s oil and gas infrastructure. The United States, with allies, should leverage sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank, foreign banks that continue to conduct transactions with sanctioned Iranian entities, and companies doing business with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The United States should implement current law and sanction foreign energy companies investing more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton both voted to enact this legislation as senators.

That said, it is important to remember that unilateral sanctions seldom work without solid support from a sizable constituency in the targeted country. This is why sanctions were effective when applied to the Apartheid regime in South Africa, but have failed to work when applied to Cuba or Iran. Sanctions also harden regimes’ resolve to continue objectionable practices. They allow leaders to vilify the United States and the rest of the international community, and blame the failures of the regime on outside pressures. The United States’ willingness to end unilateral sanctions is an important component of a comprehensive peace agreement with Iran.

At this time, I would not approve of military action against Iran except in self-defense, or as is necessary to meet our treaty-bound obligations to other nations.

I believe that the United States should announce to the Islamic Republic of Iran our commitment to do the following, contingent on clear and immediate reciprocal steps by Iran: forgo use of force to change the borders or government of Iran; end unilateral sanctions, reestablish diplomatic relations, settle all bilateral claims, and work in pursuit of common economic interests; terminate the designation of Iran as a state sponsor of terror; and commence an ongoing strategic dialogue.

In return, we should ask Iran to commit to definitively address concerns about its nuclear fuel cycle activities, including providing full transparency and ratifying and implementing the Additional Protocol; issue a statement expressing support for United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, including affirmation of a two-state solution; work toward Hezbollah’s transformation into an exclusively political and social organization and press Palestinian opposition groups to stop violent action, through stopping the provision of training, supplies, and funds to organizations designated as terrorist organizations by the United States; and commence an ongoing human rights dialogue with the United States, including representatives from nongovernmental organizations in both countries; and work with the United States in ensuring a stable, democratic Iraq.

Such a “grand bargain,” as its advocates call it, is necessary because any solution to tensions between the U.S. and Iran must be sweeping and comprehensive.  As Flynt Leverett of the New America Foundation has stated in testimony before the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, “resolving any of the significant bilateral differences between the United States and the Islamic Republic inevitably requires resolving all of them.”

Fortunately, Iran’s leadership has provided signals over the past several years that it is willing to negotiate. However, even if the Iranian leadership balks at these offers, the U.S. still comes out ahead.  Such an offer will bolster the standing of pragmatists in Iran and marginalize Iran’s hardliners.

Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California’s 10th District.

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