Washington, DC - On the eve of talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Istanbul a diverse group of diplomats, arms control experts, Iran experts, democracy and human rights defenders, and leading Iranian-American, Jewish, and pro-peace organizations issued a statement urging the Obama Administration to reinvigorate diplomacy with Iran.
The experts include Ambassador John Limbert, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran; Sir Richard Dalton, the former British Ambassador to Iran; Bruno Pellaud, the former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Gary Sick, who served at the NSC as the principal White House adviser on Iran, and Chas Freeman, the former American Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Full text of the statement:
January 20, 2011
As the United States prepares for the upcoming round of multilateral talks
with Iran, it is imperative that the Obama Administration reinvigorate its
diplomacy by pursuing engagement with Tehran more persistently, setting
realistic objectives, and broadening the US-Iranian dialogue. Diplomacy is the
only sustainable means of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,
avoiding the dangerous folly of military confrontation in the Middle East, and
enabling progress in other critical areas of US interest, such as Afghanistan
and the human rights situation within Iran.
Reinvigorating diplomacy means seeking to engage Iran more persistently. The upcoming Istanbul meeting is only the fourth meeting on the nuclear issue involving both the United States and Iran, and no breakthrough can be expected without additional talks. Fortunately, time exists to pursue a diplomatic solution. Both US and Israeli officials have made public statements recently acknowledging that Iran remains years away from having the capability to construct a nuclear weapon.
Reinvigorating diplomacy also means pursuing realistic objectives. Unrealistic outcomes, such as insisting that Iran cease uranium enrichment entirely, however desirable, must be set aside. Focus should instead be placed on establishing monitoring and verification mechanisms that can ensure that Iran's nuclear program is, indeed, used solely for peaceful purposes. Secretary Clinton stated in December that the United States would be prepared to recognize a peaceful enrichment program on Iranian soil. This is a productive step to achieve a satisfactory compromise for which the Administration should be commended.
Finally, reinvigorating diplomacy means addressing issues with Iran beyond the nuclear file. Tehran presents challenges and opportunities in many other areas of importance to US national security, including the stability of Afghanistan and Iraq, drug trafficking, and the human rights situation in Iran itself. The US should seek common ground in all areas of interest and not hold progress in one area hostage to resolution of others. Indeed, progress on human rights or Afghanistan may create a better climate for progress on the nuclear issue. The US engagement agenda must be expanded to reflect this.
Diplomacy with Iran will not be easy and no quick fixes should be expected. Iran must also negotiate in earnest and make the serious compromises necessary for resolution of the nuclear issue. The concerns of the IAEA, the P5+1, and the international community more broadly must be addressed by Iran on the basis of transparency and cooperation. Resolving decades of enmity between the US and Iran will require that both sides work to create openings for successful engagement.
Only reinvigorated diplomacy holds the promise of bridging the many divides between the US and Iran and achieving a sustainable solution that prevents a disastrous military confrontation, prevents an Iranian bomb and the additional proliferation that would follow, and protects the human rights of the Iranian people.
Barry Blechman, co-founder, the Stimson Center
Professor Juan Cole, University of Michigan
Sir Richard Dalton, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London; Former British Ambassador to Iran
Debra DeLee, President and CEO, Americans for Peace Now
Jonathan W. Evans, Legislative Representative for Foreign Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Professor Farideh Farhi, University of Hawaii
Chas W. Freeman, Jr., former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and President, Middle East Policy Council
Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, Jr., (USA, Ret.) Chairman, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Col. Sam Gardiner, United States Air Force, Retired
Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Amb. John Limbert, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Firuzeh Mahmoudi, Executive Director, United4Iran
Paul Kawika Martin, Policy Director, Peace Action
Stephen McInerney, Executive Director, Project on Middle East Democracy
Robert Naiman, Executive Director, Just Foreign Policy
Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council
Bruno Pellaud, Former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency
Professor Paul Pillar, Georgetown University
John Rainwater, Executive Director, Peace Action West
Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Professor Gary Sick, Columbia University
Professor John Tirman, Executive Director and Principal Research Scientist, MIT Center for International Studies
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