Foreign Policy Blogs

A Solution for the US,Iran Nuclear Standoff

No no no- not my solution, which I am keeping close to my vest until I get a lucrative government job (or until I get smart enough to come up with one- neither option seems close to the horizon). 

 This solution comes from Thomas Pickering, William Leurs, and Jim Walsh, and it is published in The New York Review of Books.   They think that now is the time to strike.

 The NIE and the improvement in US,Iranian relations over Iraq policy are part of it. Moreover, Iran's upcoming parliamentary elections in mid-March seem likely to show a weakening of support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his allies. This, in turn, will put intense pressure on him to raise his political status before the 2009 presidential elections. Without a noticeable improvement in the economy, Ahmadinejad can move in one of two directions. First, he can pick a fight with the United States, hoping that confrontation will boost his ratings. This has been his tendency until now, but it is a tactic that appears less effective each time it is used and has probably contributed to his declining popularity.

These strike me as true, and the lack of outcry or even sustained noise over Ahmadinejad's trip to Iraq, even with his spouting the same boilerplate rhetoric, is a good sign.   And it seems both countries are recognizing, their own rivalries aside, that an unstable Iraq is in no one's interest.

(Let's not go nuts, though: the New York Times today is reporting that “For more than two hours, representatives to the International Atomic Energy Agency were riveted by documents, sketches and even a video that appeared to have come from Iran's own military laboratories. The inspector said they showed work ‘not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon,’ according to notes taken by diplomats.”  Obviously, this is a fluid and shifting relationship.)

Anyway, the article lays out a good, and I think important program (its workability is questionable, but that can be said with any plan).  The nut of it is that it is in our interests to convince Iran that working with the US on this is in theirinterests.  And they stress that choosing the second-best option (perhaps an Iranian nuclear program under strict multilateral control) is better than the worst option.  I believe this- not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and all that.  

Again, there is no perfect solution to this problem.  But we need to work on “less-bad” solutions, as morally and grammatically ugly as that sounds.    Until, of course, I reveal my perfect solution to this. 



Brian O'Neill

Brian O'Neill is a freelance writer currently based out of Chicago. He has lived in Egypt and in Yemen, and worked as a writer and editor for the Yemen Observer publishing company. He currently is an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation.