Given the last two weeks in the Middle East — client entities like Hizbollah provoking a conflict, the Saudis and Egyptians speaking without power from the sidelines, Western uncertainty about the role of Syria and Iran — is it possible to draw a new map of the Middle East?
This is a dangerous moment for the Middle East, because the conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon could easily escalate to involve the broader region. Any strategy to address the present crisis must deal with the realities of the Middle East as they are now, not try to leapfrog over them by seeking to impose a grand new vision. Such a vision would be bound to fail as it did in the case of Iraq.
Over the last few decades most, if not all, Arab-Israeli crises have occurred when the United States has been either unable or unwilling to play an aggressive role as a mediator; and most have only abated after the United States has finally thrown itself into the middle of them.
In the latest move in the wrestling match with the international community, Iran is being pushed back to the UN Security Council. Iran’s unwillingness to negotiate over the recent international incentive package was too much for France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and even Russia and China to take. This is not the last move, however, and it is important that the international community not waver on the need for Iran to resume without further delay suspension of uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.
We say this because in Washington and elsewhere, the erroneous and unhelpful impression was being promoted that the United States is the actor holding up negotiations with Iran. Seymour Hersh’s insightful article in the July 10 & 17 issue of The New Yorker begins by reporting that the Bush Administration’s offer to join talks with Iran was conditioned on the President’s demand that “‘the Iranian regime fully and verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.’” Hersh continues that in essence “Iran, which has insisted on the right to enrich uranium, was being asked to concede the main point of negotiations before they started.” Herein lies a damaging fallacy.
The facts are that the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors has called for Iranian suspension nine times in resolutions between September 2003 and February 2006, and the UN Security Council Presidential Statement of March 29, 2006 also calls for Iran to re-establish “full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development”. In each case, the demand is for immediate Iranian suspension. The logic follows the November 15, 2004 Paris Agreement between the EU-3 (France, Germany and the United Kingdom) and Iran, whereby Iran agreed that “the suspension will be sustained while negotiations proceed on a mutually acceptable agreement on long-term arrangements”. The aim of the agreement was to provide objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, while meeting Iran’s interests in developing peaceful nuclear technology and gaining the economic benefits of ties with Europe and the security benefits of broader rapprochement in the Middle East. Iran broke that suspension last August before it bothered to consider an offer of incentives by the EU-3. It is risible that Iran now says it needs months to analyze and respond to the more ambitious incentive package offered by the EU-3 and supported by the US, Russia and China.
In other words, the call for Iran to suspend enrichment now is an international demand, not an exceptional American one, and it does not prejudge the outcome of subsequent negotiations. (Read More)
Stephen J. Weber, of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, presented the findings of his recent poll on how Russians and Americans view each other, themselves, China, and Iran.
Many observers believe that Israel is pushing the U.S. to take military action against Iran's nuclear program. We asked Israel's senior defense journalist, Ze'ev Schiff, a man with outstanding contacts, to describe Israeli establishment thinking today on the Iran challenge.
When in Washington, I was amazed to hear on a number of occasions that Israel was urging the United States to go to war with Iran and that its strategic objective was to induce the United States to attack Iran, thus putting an end to that country's nuclear program. To the best of my knowledge and understanding this claim is totally false. It is an error based on ignorance or on disregard for important details in Israeli strategic thinking. It may even be founded on a deliberate lie.
To the best of my knowledge, Israel does not believe war against Iran to be the best way to eliminate the Iranian nuclear project. There is a common tendency to forget that Israel lies on the frontline of such a war. Israel stands to suffer more than anyone else, including the United States, should such a war break out. It would certainly be the prime target of Iranian retaliation should the United States decide to use force against Iran. It is a known fact that the attack on the Israeli consulate in Buenos Aires some years ago was the work of Iranian agents. Also in Buenos Aires, Iranian agents were responsible for the destruction of the Jewish community offices, causing many casualties. In fact, the Iranian government aims its violence against Jewish institutions in countries outside the Middle East. (Read More)
The following are excerpts from the prepared remarks by Patrick Clawson, deputy director at The Washington Institute, on "Iran's Motives and Strategies: The Role of the Economy" delivered at a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on May 17, 2006. Click here to access his full testimony.
The Limitations of Economic Instruments
Economic instruments alone are unlikely to be sufficient to persuade Iran to freeze its nuclear program. The principal levers of power in Iran are in the hands of revolutionaries who are not motivated primarily by economic concerns, while those who care about the state of the economy do not have sufficient influence on their own to persuade the real power-holders to change policies. Success at influencing Iranian policy is much more likely if action on the economic front is combined with action on other fronts...
Much as pressure should be applied on several fronts rather than just on the economy, so inducements offered Iran should take multiple forms rather than only being trade and investment incentives. Indeed, economic inducements look suspiciously like bribes paid for bad behavior. Besides being odious, such bribes give the impression that bad behavior is more profitable than good behavior...
A much more appropriate form of inducement would be security inducements. Such security inducements should be designed to counter the argument that Iran needs nuclear weapons for its defense. There are many confidence- and security-building measures and arms control measures that would provide gains for both Iran and the West, similar to the way such steps reduced tensions between the old Warsaw Pact and NATO during the Cold War. One example would be an agreement to reduce the risk of incidents at sea between the U.S. and Iranian navies.
A further security inducement which the United States could offer would be to address the reported concern that the Bush administration's real goal is regime change in Iran and that the Bush administration will use force to that end. Such complaints sound peculiar coming from an Iranian government whose president lectures President Bush on why the United States should abandon its liberal democracy and who sponsored a conference last fall on theme "The World Without Zionism and America"...
It would of course be inappropriate for the U.S. government to offer any security guarantees to the Iranian or any other government; what government is in power in another country is up to the people of that country to decide. But what Washington could offer Tehran would be a "conditional security assurance" -- jargon for the simple proposition, "We will not attack you if you do not attack us." (Read More)
Stephen J. Blank, of the U.S. Army War College, and energy consultant Edward Chow looked at the future of Russian oil and gas and the possibility of shipping it to China.
Carnegie President Jessica Tuchman Mathews discusses U.S.-Iran Relations and whether war with Iran would help or hurt U.S. national security.