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U.S. Presidential Candidates Offer Stagnant Strategies

Editorial by U.S.-Iran Alliance

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain, the three major presidential candidates, propose different strategies to moderate the Islamic Republic of Iran's behavior yet all three strategies focus on the foreign policy symptoms of problem instead of the disease itself - the brutal, uncompromising, and belligerent nature of the Islamic republic. Concentrating exclusively on the Islamic republic's nuclear program with "carrots" and "sticks" addresses the symptom of the disease and will not resolve conflict with Iran's foreign policy. Nor will it reconcile or cure the regime's unwillingness to submit to Washington's demands. As the Islamic Republic of Iran must preserve their power through coercive and violent suppression of any challenge to its authority evident in their persecution of human rights, militarily attacking Iran will cause the regime to clamp further down on human rights. Hurting Iran's democratic movement, the movement best positioned to facilitate long term change, will not assist Washington in achieving long term U.S. strategic interest goals. In order for the next U.S. president to solve the U.S. Iran conflict and heal Iran's disease at its source, the president must engage the regime at its weakest point, highlight the failure of its oppressive domestic policy, expose the Islamic republic's human rights abuses to the international community, and support Iran's democratic movement. Otherwise, Iran will always threaten U.S. interests.

For nearly 30 years, Republican and Democratic administrations followed bi-polar policy approaches of "carrots" and "sticks" that emboldened Iran's fundamentalists and failed to moderate the behavior of the Islamic republic. Appeasing the regime allows them to take advantage of U.S. benevolence in a Chamberlain-Hitler type appeasement that empowers the hardliners to take as much as they can get while never backing down, legitimizes the regime's authority as the West plays into their demands, and sells out Iran's dissidents who strive for democracy and are disillusioned with the regime's mismanagement of the economy. Threatening the regime with saber-rattling fuels and increases the hardliner's bellicose rhetoric, provides a pretext for additional security against the "Great Satan," and undermines civil society and the vibrant democratic movement in Iran as the regime clamps down. Instead of allowing our elected political leaders to alienate the Iranian people's trust and support for the U.S, we should be asking ourselves, "Is the U.S. using every tool at our disposal to maximize our foreign policy objectives to achieve our strategic interests?"

Given that Iran's hardliners wish to enrich uranium at all costs, the viability of Washington's "carrots" and "sticks" policy paradigm must be reconsidered. Recently, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Iran "hell bent" on successfully enriching uranium. Iran's behavior confirms Mr. Gates' assertion. For instance, Iran's hardliners barred hundreds of reformist candidates, many of who oppose Iran's uranium enrichment program and foreign policy, from running in the 2008 parliamentary elections. The lack of open political expression evidences the mullah's desire to consolidate the conservative's power and render the elections a sham to achieve their foreign policy goals and nuclear ambitions. Despite the reality that neither carrots nor sticks proved successful in moderating the Islamic republic's behavior, the three candidates agree on solely following these approaches in one form or another. They also agree on attacking Iran militarily to prevent the regime from acquiring nuclear weapons technology.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton, presidential Democratic candidate, follows a mixture of these approaches to solve the nuclear issue. She threatened to 'obliterate' Iran in the event of an Islamic republic nuclear attack on Israel. The New York Senator cautioned, "If Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel... I want the Iranians to know that if I am president, we will attack Iran." Mrs. Clinton emphasized her determination to deter Iran's military application of nuclear technology through military might when she added, "In the next 10 years during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them." Her toughened stance on Iran coincides with Tuesday's Democratic primary election in Pennsylvania, which she won. When later questioned about her comment, she rationalized her argument as a Cold War deterrence strategy. Senator Clinton also supports diplomatic talks with the Iranian government.

Illinois Senator Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate, dismisses engaging the regime with really big "sticks" but mostly prefers "carrots." Mr. Obama claimed that, "One of the things that we've seen over the last several years is a bunch of talk using words like 'obliterate'. It doesn't actually produce good results. And so I'm not interested in saber-rattling." While Senators Clinton and Obama agree on diplomatic discussion with the regime, Mr. Obama takes diplomacy one step further and calls for direct talks with the government's leaders, "I have said consistently that we should have direct talks with Iran without preconditions but not without preparation." Both Democratic senators keep the military option on the table.

Arizona Senator and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain advocates a hardline stance on Iran that emphasizes sticks similar to the current administration's policy on Iran. Generally considered hawkish on Iran and other issues, Mr. McCain has shown little sensitivity on the issue and responded to Iran last April by singing the tune of the Beach Boy's "Barbara Ann" to "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Iran." The Arizona Senator on three separate occasions referred to Iran's support of Sunni Al-Qaeda when current intelligence indicates that Iran supports shiia extremist groups in Iraq. Nonetheless, Mr. McCain has expressed a strong interest in preventing Iran from achieving nuclear weapons, "I believe we can act with nations with values and principles that we hold dear and exercise enormous pressure - diplomatic, trade, financial." He too keeps a military option on the table.

In order for the U.S. to find a peaceful resolution to U.S. Iran conflict, it remains likely that the next U.S. president will use a combination of carrots and sticks to deal with the regime. It is highly doubtful that any of the candidates wish to continue failed policies toward Iran, engage in risky military action, or create a politically, socially, and economically disastrous war with Iran that would threaten long term U.S. interests. Yet, none of the candidates seriously expressed consideration on anything beyond Iran's nuclear issue nor offered assurances to improve Iran's deplorable human rights condition. By, neglecting Iran's human rights, America abandons the Iranian people, Washington's greatest "asset," source, and force for long term democracy and stability in Iran.

About: The U.S.-Iran Alliance advocates a non-military resolution of Iran's nuclear issue. We believe any U.S. or Israeli military action directed against Iran will be counterproductive to Iran's democratic movement as well as U.S. and Israeli interests. We seek to promote the following Three Principles in Iran: respect for the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, free press on par with internationally recognized democratic standards, free elections on par with internationally recognized democratic standards & monitored by international observers.

... Payvand News - 05/28/08 ... --

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