Monday, December 18, 2006

Dealing with Iran

One of the key proposals of the Iraq Study Group's report was that the U.S. engage Syria and Iran over Iraq. Syria has come out saying it supports this proposal whole-heartedly, only because complementary to this recommendation is the notion that Israel give the Golan Heights back to Syria. Israel of course is not to happy with the idea of the U.S. undermining its negotiations with Syria, nor with the idea of handing back the Golan Heights in the first place.

Iran, unlike Syria, seemingly has no reason to negotiate with the U.S.; its influence in the region continues to grow, the majority population of Iraq (Shia) have a close connection with Iran giving Iran considerable power within Iraq, its nuclear enrichment program continues undeterred and its President is certain that the 12th Imam will soon return- "a certitude that leaves little room for compromise" as Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor explains. Besides which, many Sunnis in Iraq will surely frown on increased Iranian intervention. (The same can of course be said of the Kurds in regard to Turkey and the Shia in regard to Jordan.)

Secretary Rice has repeatedly declared that the U.S. will not negotiate with Iran, arguing that the "compensation required by any deal might be too high." And that, ""If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they [Iran and Syria] will do it anyway."

The U.S. doesn't want to engage Iran and vice-versa, so what's the point? Well Flynt Levrett, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation argues that the United States must deal directly with Iran in order to prevent Iranian development of nuclear weapons and to resolve other political and security issues. He recommends a "grand bargain" that would include economic incentives and a guarantee that the U.S. not attack Iran. In exchange the U.S. would gain limits to Iran's nuclear activities and a termination of Iran's support for terrorism in Iraq. This deal could also provide the foundation for a establishing a regional security framework in the Persian Gulf.

He makes an interesting argument and I suggest those interested read the full report; however, I believe the points I make above are still valid. Even if the U.S. does for some reason extend its arm to Iran, who is to say that Iran will reciprocate. Everything seems to be going Iran's way as far as Iran is concerned anyway. Also, when one is pursuing a course of action based on one's messianic beliefs, it seems unlikely that logic will hold much sway.

What do you think? First off, should the U.S. engage Iran over Iraq and secondly how successful do you think said negotiations would be? Should Iraq's neighbors even be involved in the peace process?


John T. said...

Great post. Don't have much time to comment on the diplomacy question right now, but just came across some interesting news. Apparently that Levrett report you refer to has become quite controversial. He had written an op-ed based on the report for the NY Times, but before it could get published the White House swooped in and censored key paragraphs. Levrett is claiming that he has been targeted simply because he has written articles in the past that attacked Administration policies. More info here:

Matteo Tomasini said...

Thanks for the heads up. Seems to be quite a storm brewing over this issue. The Daily Kos and Juan Cole have already picked up the issue.

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