|TIME TO TALK?
The debate to renew dialogue with Iran.
January 26, 1998
in this forum:
Does engaging Iran send the wrong message to other nations who condone terrorism? Considering Iran's hostility toward Israel and its opposition to the peace process, what could one expect from U.S.-Iran dialogue in relation to Iran and Israel? Isn't it possible that constructive dialogue and the readmission of Iran into the international community could do more to influence and Iran's behavior than sanctions ever achieved? Is Iran ready to have a dialogue with the United States? Didn't previous U.S policies toward Iran create the hostility that divides the two nations today?
December 15, 1997
President Khatami calls for a dialogue with the West.
May 26, 1997
Mohammad Khatami is elected president of Iran .
January 30, 1997
The State Department's annual report on human rights violations .
March 13, 1996
A summit on terrorism is held in Egypt .
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle East.
Iranian Embassy in Canada
News, views and information on Iran from NetIran.
Department of State
Anne Hudson of Atlanta, GA, asks:
As sanctions have failed to bring down Iran's government, not to mention it punishes the people of Iran, not the government, maybe it is time to reconsider U.S. policy, which currently appears only to strengthen the hand of Iran's more radical elements. Isn't it possible that constructive dialogue and the readmission of Iran into the international community could do more to influence and Iran's behavior than sanctions ever achieved?
Dr. Gary Sick, former National Security Council staff member and principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis, answers:
The most important thing to remember about the U.S. sanctions regime against Iran is that it is totally unilateral. Only Israel and Uzbekistan have supported the United States in these attempts to prevent normal trading relations with Iran. As the largest and most powerful economic force in the world, U.S. sanctions have certainly complicated Iran's efforts to develop its oil and gas sector. But there has been a real cost, not only to the Iranian people but also to the United States itself. Last year, the President's Export Council estimated the direct cost of all economic sanctions to the U.S. economy in 1995 at $15-19 billion in lost export sales and up to 250,000 jobs. Even Israel, which supports the sanctions, has been formally accused by the United States of continuing to purchase Iranian pistachios at the expense of American producers.
The high price of sanctions might be worth paying if it succeeded in changing Iran's policies. However, the main effect to date has been to encourage Iran to become more self-sufficient and to substitute Japanese or European products for American products. A senior Iranian official remarked recently that "You [Americans] are getting out of our lives."
The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 imposed a secondary boycott on Iran, by threatening to punish foreign companies that do business with Iran. That is what the Arabs tried to do to Israel for many years, and failed. This ill-conceived legislation has prompted outrage among our closest allies, who now threaten us with international legal action if we go ahead with our threats.
Iran is a country of 60 million people and is one of the largest oil exporters in the world. Its economy in recent years has been performing surprisingly well, according to the IMF. Whether we like it or not, Iran is part of the global economy, and even the United States, with all its economic clout, cannot bring Iran to its knees or coerce it into compliance. Our sanctions policies have offended our friends while strengthening the hand of the hardliners in Iran. We need to look at other alternatives.
Congressman Sam Gejdenson, (D-Connecticut), answers:
The United States and our European allies engaged in "constructive dialogue" with Iran for a number of years, but it has failed to bring Iran into the family of nations. The President rightully signaled a different approach with his Executive Order prohibiting American companies from conducting business in Iran. After the 1997 Mykonos trial in which a German Court found that Tehran ordered the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leaders in Berlin in 1992, the Europeans suspended their policy of engagement with Iran.
A dialogue requires active listening and speaking on both parts. What we seemed to have in recent years was a European monologue with little indication that their message was being received in Iran. A nation who wants a constructive dialogue with other nations and societies should, for example, lift the death sentence against the author Salman Rushdie whose only crime was writing a book.
With Iran, we must deal with crucial issues first. At the top of the list is to prevent Iran from acquiring chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Second, Iran must cease to employ terrorism as tool of their foreign policy. Once these two threshold conditions have been satisfied, then we can and should conduct comprehensive talks between our governments.