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Quandt: 'U.S. must accept reality it has helped create'

Ali Hosseini, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

Washington, D.C. - According to prominent Middle East expert Dr. William Quandt, America needs to "deal with the Middle East as it is, instead of how we wish it would be." Referring to a speech by Mohammad Khatami during his last visit to the U.S., Quandt said that the former Iranian President commenced "by thanking the United States for "doing what we failed to do; remove the Taliban and Saddam from power." In other words, the U.S. "needs to accept the reality we've helped create." Emphasizing dialogue with Tehran, Quandt discussed U.S. policies towards Iran as part of the Elliott School of International Affairs event last week titled "Middle East Challenges Facing the Next Administration."

Dr Quandt began his discussion on Iran by saying that "Americans don't understand how Iran looms as a rising power in the region thanks to the U.S." After seven years, "Bush has reluctantly realized that we need to talk to Iran." The Bush administration is therefore sending U.S. diplomats to Tehran for the first time in three decades, as an initiative that will function as a "gift to the next President," Quandt alleged -- referring to reports that Bush is intending to open an interests section in Tehran. Consequentially, Quandt expressed the firm belief that "neither Bush nor Israel will bomb Iran." The diplomatic alternative is however not due to naivety or pacifism; "attacking Iran would unleash a daunting Iranian response...particularly in Iraq, Iran could do a lot of things...they haven't done", Quandt said.

Unfolding possible ways to restructure U.S. policies towards Iran, Quandt put forward the necessity of "credibly conveying, after 30 years, that we accept the outcome of the Islamic Revolution" as the key tenet of any successful rapprochement with Tehran. In other words, the U.S. needs to publically abandon 'regime change' as an underlying, if not stated, policy towards Iran, according to Quandt. Secondly, Washington needs to "make it clear that we have shared interests," with a special reference to Afghanistan, where Iran played a helpful role prior to the U.S. invasion. In   Iraq, finding those shared interests is more difficult, although "Iran and the U.S. mutually want a stable, friendly, unified Iraq," Quandt argued.

For a Shi'a-dominated regime in Iraq, it is inevitable to have good ties with the only other Shi'a-dominated country in the World, said Quandt. This is part of the "new reality we helped create." Contrary to what most Americans fear, close relations between Iraq and Iran is "no disaster, although it makes some people nervous." Arguing that Tehran's strong support for the Maliki-government is a positive rarity, Quandt pointed out that Arab governments remain wary of reaching out to Iraq.

Moving on to the nuclear issue, Quandt argued that while multilateral negotiations have facilitated diplomacy, "bilateral negotiations between Washington and Tehran is required to resolve the conflict." Arguing that Iran has not violated any of its commitments, and is entitled to the full nuclear fuel cycle as a signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Quandt argued that Washington needs to fundamentally review its policies towards Tehran and link the nuclear issue to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this context, Tehran has little to gain from militarizing its nuclear energy program, as it will only trigger "a regional nuclear arms case that will diminish Iran's current comparative advantages inherent in its size and population." Moreover, Tehran will "have to forget about de-nuclearizing Israel." In this formula, Washington should accept Iranian uranium enrichment under strict International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision, Quandt argued.

Concluding the session, Quandt expressed his belief in the necessity of secret negotiations, before any major public overtures, similar to Nixon's visit to China. As part of this effort, Washington needs to re-create the negative image of Iran among Americans that the Bush Administration has promoted over the last eight years. The first step in this direction is to abandon the term 'Axis of Evil'; after all, "you can't have an axis if there's only one country left," Quandt jokingly remarked in reference to North Korea's abandonment of nuclear arms.

... Payvand News - 11/07/08 ... --

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