Approach the Iran Nuclear Dilemma,
a new White Paper released today by the Iran Nuclear Policy Group, a task force
of Iran experts and former diplomats.
President Obama needs to break with the strategy of his White House predecessor, if the nuclear standoff with Iran is to be resolved, according to
The paper argues that the prospect of Iran ceasing open uranium enrichment is remote, and that open, declared, IAEA-safeguarded enrichment is not the greatest risk, in any case. Washington would do better to focus on the much more consequential danger of Teheran restarting clandestine enrichment, should it choose to pursue a weapon.
The White Paper also casts considerable doubt on the likely efficacy of a continued coercive approach to Iran, arguing that threats and attacks will only backfire, while prospects for successfully coercing Iran through tightened economic sanctions are remote at best. Combining threats and positive inducements is unlikely to work because experience is showing that, in Iran's case at least, "carrots and sticks" deployed together tend to cancel each other out, the anger caused by the sticks nullifying the appeal of the carrots.
In fact, America's most effective leverage over Iran in the current nuclear standoff is to be found not in the bad things Washington can do to Iran, but in the good things - things Iran needs - that America can withhold, according to the paper.
The Group argues that effective U.S. diplomacy requires Washington to do three things:
Ease tensions and build confidence through a broader opening to Iran in other areas (as the Administration is doing);
Re-define U.S. bargaining objectives on the nuclear file to focus on the principal risk which in Iran's case is not open, safeguarded enrichment but the currently-unchecked possibility of a clandestine re-start of enrichment and/or weapons development. Maximizing chances of detecting and deterring the latter requires getting Iran to re-adhere to the Additional Protocol - which allows anywhere, anytime IAEA inspections of Iranian facilities nationwide -- and to accept other transparency and control measures.
Wise diplomacy, therefore, would re-define U.S. bargaining objectives to respect Iran's legitimate right to enrich uranium for peaceful use once international confidence is restored, while trading (a) flexibility on immediate suspension of safeguarded enrichment for (b) a low cap on enrichment capacity, control by a multinational consortium, and major gains on transparency and inspector access across Iran.
There are indications that this is a trade Iran might well accept, thereby ending the conflict while making America more secure.
About the Iran Nuclear Policy Group
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