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Leveretts: Iran Must Be Seen as Opportunity, Not Threat

Washington D.C. - "Five presidents have treated Iran as a threat. The next needs to think of it as an opportunity." So say Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett in their ambitious proposal for a "grand bargain" with Iran. Presenting their proposal, "Time for a U.S.-Iranian Grand Bargain" at the New America Foundation, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, both former National Security Council Directors, proposed a drastic reorientation of American policy toward Iran. Their recommendations call for the President to take steps with Iran reminiscent of President Nixon's reengagement of the People's Republic of China in the 1970s.

In front of a full room at the New American Foundation, the speakers unveiled their proposal, which drew on current and past examples of American policy towards Iran and consisted of a comprehensive five point agenda for bringing both parties to the table.

The main body of this proposal lies not in incremental diplomatic movements but an "all in" open dialogue in which all principal bilateral differences between the US and Iran are put on the table with a single, large packaged solution. This proposal relies on five main points, respectively, for both nations.

According to the authors, American concerns within the grand bargain, would include Iran's nuclear activity, support for Hizbollah and Hamas, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and regional stability. Iran is looking for U.S. Security assurances, the end of U.S. unilateral sanctions, removal from the U.S. state-sponsored terrorism list, economic integration, and an ongoing strategic dialogue.

According to Flynt Leverett, since the Reagan administration, U.S. foreign policy toward Iran can be summarized as: diplomatic isolation, economic pressure, and a thinly veiled support for regime change. Mr. Leverett went on to state that "We [the U.S.] do not have diplomatic relations with Iran and we try to discourage any other country to have diplomatic relations with Iran. We unilaterally impose sanctions on Iran flowing from their designation as a state sponsor of terror and other executive orders and we are now attempting to move to multilateral sanctioning authorized by the U.N. Security Council."

Despite this open hostility, there have been instances of cooperation between the U.S. and Iran that which were immediately squandered by renewed hostility. These examples include the Iran-Contra affair, where the first Bush administration negotiated with Iran to free hostages from Lebanon; the Clinton Administration's work with Iran to help arm Bosnian Muslims; and the current Bush Administration's work with Iran to catch Al Qaeda members and secure Afghani boarders.

Mrs. Leverett participated in the most recent operation involving Afghanistan, and said Iran entered into these cooperative affairs with the hope that further dialogue would ensue. But each of these instances of cooperation was followed by a period of high tension which resulted in U.S. withdrawal and renewed hostility toward Iran due to the threat of domestic political concerns.

This repeating scenario of cooperation and conflict has not worked for either country and has "damaged the interests of the United States and its allies and contributed to regional destabilization," according to Mr. Leverett.

... Payvand News - 10/10/08 ... --

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