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The Race for Iran


It is hard to do serious political analysis of a contested political environment when one is, in effect, “rooting” for one of the contestants. In 1979, much of the public commentary in the United States about the Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah was characterized by disbelief that a stalwart American ally could be swept away so quickly and unexpectedly. Today, much American commentary on Iranian domestic politics is characterized by varying degrees of eagerness to see the Islamic Republic go the way of the Pahlavi dynasty—or, in a formulation that some neoconservatives prefer, the way of the Soviet Union.


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Sanctions and Use of Force Are Part of the Same Strategy

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren says that the United States and Israel have not discussed using force against Iran. So far, the discussions have been limited to the possibility of imposing further sanctions.

The problem is that sanctions will perpetuate antagonistic relations between the United States and Iran while failing to stifle the development of Iran’s nuclear program. Thus sanctions will only serve to kick the can down the road and will eventually lead to a discussion of the use of force as a “last resort.”

A better policy would be to forgo both sanctions and threats – and to instead pursue more serious diplomacy with the Islamic Republic.

— Ben Katcher


Obama Going Down the Sanctions Path

National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough says that the United States is reaching out to its international partners in an effort to gain support for a fresh round of sanctions again the Islamic Republic.

It is difficult to imagine how additional sanctions will lead to anything other than a continuation of the status quo. Given that the current sanctions on Iran have been an utter failure, why does the Obama administration think that further sanctions will persuade the Iranians to make meaningful concessions related to their nuclear program?

— Ben Katcher


Iran Agrees In Principle to Uranium Swap in Turkey

The Associated Press reported on Friday that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that the Islamic Republic is willing to exchange uranium on Turkish soil as part of an agreement with the P5+1 countries. Previously, the Islamic Republic had only committed to exchanging the fuel on Iran’s own territory.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu indicated that Turkey would be willing to consider such an arrangement and has reportedly discussed the proposal with Obama’s National Security Advisor General Jim Jones.

The Obama administration and the other P5+1 countries should seize this opportunity to put life back into its negotiations with Iran. At the very least, the announcement should help those elements within the Obama administration who truly want to engage Iran to counter calls emanating from Congress and others to go down the strategically bankrupt road of more sanctions and threats.

— Ben Katcher


Don’t Let Israel Set An Artificial Clock on Negotiations

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a parliamentary committee that Iran will have the technology to build a nuclear weapon by early next year.

Putting aside the accuracy of this claim for the moment, it is important that the Obama administration not allow Israel to set an artificial time clock to end “engagement” with the Islamic Republic and move toward sanctions and threats.

The best way to ensure that the Islamic Republic’s nuclear capabilities do not pose a threat to U.S. interests is to move toward a more normal and cooperative relationship with Iran. That requires a sustained commitment to bilateral negotiations on a broad array of issues including, but not limited to the nuclear issue.

There is no military or diplomatic “solution” to Iran’s nuclear program as long as the bilateral relationship continues to be dominated by threats and mistrust.

— Ben Katcher