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New Study: US Should Pursue 'Strategic Engagement,' Maintain Sanctions

by DANIEL BRUMBERG

17 Nov 2010 07:5210 Comments

New report by U.S. Institute of Peace and Stimson Center: Recommendations to rebalance U.S. policy toward Iran.

IranUSAFlags.jpg[ primer ] The chances of success in negotiations with Iran would increase if the international community extended a new offer of "strategic engagement," while sustaining sanctions.

The United States should take advantage of the leverage gained from the sanctions' success to reinvigorate, broaden, and pursue diplomatic engagement. "Strategic engagement" might shift the balance in Tehran, persuading elites that the wiser course is to compromise on the nuclear issue and discuss security issues of mutual concern.

The United States should make clear that the nuclear issue remains the most time-urgent, but it is also prepared to discuss additional issues of mutual interest, such as Afghanistan and the drug trade.

Successful strategic engagement requires a willingness by the United States to make adjustments of comparable importance. This means recognizing Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes as long as it is conducted within tightly controlled and verifiable limits on level and volume. The package would also require Iran to clarify questions on its nuclear program and weapons-related activities and implement the Additional Protocol to its IAEA Safeguards Agreement, permitting inspections of undeclared facilities.

If diplomacy and sanctions ultimately prove unsuccessful, some have suggested that the United States should seek to damage or destroy Iran nuclear infrastructure through air strikes. The study group believes that military options would be counterproductive, as they could impose grave military, political, and economic costs on the United States and its allies, cement Iran's determination to acquire nuclear weapons, and likely end the chances for a democratic revival in Iran indefinitely.

Israeli air strikes could possibly damage the Iranian nuclear infrastructure and set back the program for a year or two, but would have similar negative consequences for U.S. interests and should be discouraged. Threats of the use of force only reinforce those in Tehran who believe Iran needs nuclear weapons for its security and undermine those who argue for compromise with the international community.

The United States has a clear interest in the security of Israel and Arab nations threatened by Iran. To offset these concerns, the United States should bolster the security capabilities of these nations, share intelligence, develop joint contingency plans, conduct joint exercises, and make available advanced military equipment. The United States should also work to help the Arab states resolve their disputes diplomatically.

Security cooperation not only improves these nations' security, it also makes clear to Iranian leaders that their intransigence only deepens their isolation and the U.S. military presence in the Middle East.

The United States should not complete any new formal security commitments with the Gulf states at this point, as the debate that might accompany actions requiring congressional approval could be counterproductive. The United States should also not imply any extended nuclear commitments, an action which might strengthen the position of hardliners in the Iranian leadership.

Read the full report

Daniel Brumberg is a senior advisor to the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where he also served as acting director of USIP's Muslim World Initiative. This article is presented by Tehran Bureau, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as part of the Iran project at iranprimer.usip.org.

Related reading by Daniel Brumberg | Iran and Democracy

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10 Comments

Non-starter. What US president is going to "capitulate" on the enrichment issue? Besides, this is all pre-textual anyway.

Tell it to the chaplain, Mr. Brumberg.

Pirouz / November 17, 2010 9:23 AM

Some one who does not possess adequate knowledge of world geography and history indulges himself with quick fix suggestion for a quick fix concerning world strategic/political conflicts.

Mr. Brumberg, who are these Gulf states?

For my own curiosity and your information I googled the term "Gulf states" and below was the first hit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_states_of_the_Persian_Gulf

Aryajet / November 17, 2010 11:10 PM

The author writes "... security commitments with the Gulf states at this... ."

What is "Gulf states," Sir?

@My dear Tehran Bureau: this article needs editing, please!

What is "Gulf states," again?

Oh, do u mean Persian Gulf states by any chance, Sir?

Mohammad / November 18, 2010 11:20 PM

IF USA wants to have leverage over IRanian Government, Syria must get closer to USA than IRAN.

IF USA wants to have leverage over IRanian Government,no American troop should be in Afghanistan anymore.

IF USA wants to have leverage over IRanian Government,Turkey must be much closer to the USA and Europe than IRAN.

IF USA wants to have leverage over IRanian Government,Iraq should be stable.

And China must not be the strong she is today.

AMin / November 18, 2010 11:23 PM

USA never cares about Iran either will have a nuclear or not and it is all about selling arms to small persian gulf countries,I never liked IRI and I never been more diapointed of western countries which they ahve ignored the human rights in Iran, these are smae countries were non stop bashing SHAH for human rights which he was fightings cold war for these western countries.they have made my and 70 million Iranian life like hell by installing ISLAMIC REGIME in Iran. Iranian are mad like hell with themselves and world what has been happing to them from last 32 year. there is only one soultion and that is removing cancer from our land and freedom for our country and the nation and rest of it is bullshit.

afshin / November 19, 2010 3:24 AM

Negotiate what and with whom exactly? This is a corrupt totalitarian theocracy ruling an increasingly belligerent nation. A Mafia style regime that lives off oil money. It will always seek more weapons and thugs (inside & abroad) to help keep it in power.

What it wants and needs is security assurances, meaning intelligence on its opposition and economical assistance, meaning investment in its oil production.

This regime is made of the worst elements of the society and has made societies worst elements rich. It has to routinely pay off its supporters in Iran and even in the US.

The regime can not survive without the oil income. The only reason that it can survive is because it can pay off a large portion of the society who are on the edge. Stop it from selling oil and this regime will fall faster than the season.

Maziar Irani / November 19, 2010 3:33 AM

@ Maziar
Well said.

Agnostic / November 19, 2010 11:37 PM

Mr. Maziar Irani,
I second it.

Niloofar / November 20, 2010 4:22 AM

This article starts out with a false premise.

The author states "the [U.S.] should take advantage of the leverage gained from the sanctions' success to......"

Success in what way? The IRI is still firmly in control of the people of Iran. Maybe, even more so. The sanctions are probably going to add many years of repression to the Iranian people. Yet, the author describes this as a success?

He then goes on to state "the [U.S.] has a clear interest in the security of Israel, and Arab nations threaten by Iran." First, those nations are perfectly capable of taking care of Iran. And secondly, how is this a security threat to the people of the U.S.?

The Iranian regime is of little threat to the U.S. Real interactions with the people of Iran would be much more effective than useless negotiations with the mullahs, and whoever claims to represent the Iranian government.

muhammad billy bob / November 20, 2010 5:22 PM

MI

How would you stop it from selling oil? Other than with Bombs? How do you ignore the multi-polar 21st century world with hundreds of countries hungry for oil? Do you think US has not tried? Do you really think China, Russia, Africa, and South America are going stop buying oil from Iran? Please do enlighten us on how this can be achieved if you care to wake up from your 32 year old dream. This is typical of your gang's mentality. The same way you ignore the truth about Iranian history, you ignore facts and reality, not to mention the pain and misery of Iranian people, for the good of your own personal revenge.

What US needs to realize is that you can use leverage only if you have one. In addition to the fact US hostilities have only strengthened the hardliners in Iran. Iranian people deserve a more welcoming and friendly world after 32 years of misery. Opening up Iran will allow the democratic Iranians to have more connections to the outside world, make their voices heard and stop the destruction of middle/educated class by IR.

The only viable force of change are the People of Iran so it is the their lives and intelligence that we have to invest it.

Ali (UCLA) / November 20, 2010 7:32 PM