In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Forceful call on Obama to rethink Iran sanctions

Posted by seumasach on April 21, 2013

“It flags that the US and Iranian intelligence should partner in counterterrorism activities directed against Al-Qaeda, since both countries have been victims of terrorism.”

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

20th April, 2013

In the past week, the discourse within the United States regarding the policy towards Iran swung notably toward the argument favouring the diplomatic option. Two influential reports contributed to this — one by the United States government and the other, arguably more prestigious, by a galaxy of America’s best-known diplomatists, strategic thinkers and Iran specialists.

The statement made by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington while presenting the 2013 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the USG contained the intelligence community’s hard assessment of the state of play in Iran’s nuclear programme. Clapper was candid in underscoring that the Iran threat should not be exaggerated and a political/diplomatic option is viable.
Page 7 of Clapper’s statement (here) makes the assessment that Iran posseses the scentific, technical and industrial capability to produce nuclear weapons, but it has not taken a decision to pursue a nuclear weapon programme and the Iranian leadership is open to influence by the international community. Iran’s security needs and the external security enviornment would be factors in the deicison-making and the Iranian leadership is trying to balance “conflicting objectives.” The statement viewed Iran’s missile capabilties as quite impressive and its ballistic missiles, in particular, as capable of delivering WMD.
The second report (here), which is part of the so-called Iran Project, was released in Washington on Wednesday and gains in stature thanks to the association with it of prestigious figures such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Thomas Pickering, Leslie Gelb, James Dobbins, Joseph Nye, George Perkovich, Gary Sick, Michael Hayden, Carla Hills, Richard Lugar, Frank Wisner and many, many others.
The Iran Project has consistently stood for engaging Iran rather than ‘containing’ that country because of its strategic importance and its standing in the Islamic world. The latest report is interesting insofar as it pushes for a rethink on the Barack Obama administration’s current sanctions policy.
The report says that the sanctions policy may be backfiring and could eventually only cause long-term alienation between the Iranian nation and the US. Besides, the sanctions have neither stopped Iran’s nuclear programme nor isolated it regionally.
It explains how normalization with Iran can help the US regional strategies with regard to a host of regional issues such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and the Arab Spring in general. It flags that the US and Iranian intelligence should partner in counterterrorism activities directed against Al-Qaeda, since both countries have been victims of terrorism.
The report examines the strategic options available for the Obama administration to strengthen the diplomatic track. The prestigious report will most certainly land on Obama’s desk in the Oval Office. To my mind, Obama cannot have any major quarrel with its content.
The core issue is whether the Congress would buy these arguments. In fact, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted this week to ratchet up the Iran sanctions.
Meanwhile, the Iran tensions are not a bad thing at all, as it fuels massive purchases of Us arms by the Persian Gulf countries. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is finalizing arms exports worth $10 billion during his Middle East tour next week.
Quite obviously, the present time is an interim period for the Iranian presidential election in June to get over. The diplomatic pot is kept just about simmering on low flame until then.

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