On the Institute for Policy Studies’ Foreign Policy in Focus website, Rob Grace offers a nice primer on U.S. covert activity history in Iran, bringing us right up into the murky present: with the U.S. widely believed to be undertaking covert efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.
The problem is that this history and these covert current activities make it more difficult to broker agreements that will resolve the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran.The accusations by Iran’s leadership that those involved in anti-government protests after the 2009 election were agents of foreign governments only fed Iranian paranoia on these issues.
“Although sabotage may prove successful in slowing Iranian nuclear progress in the short term, it actually stands as a barrier to a long-term resolution,” writes Grace, who also blogs for the Foreign Policy Association.
The whole article is worth reading for the historical perspective alone (links abound), but here’s part of his conclusion:
The sabotage effort has seemingly been successful in delaying Iranian progress on uranium enrichment. But sabotage also disrupts diplomatic progress.
The Obama administration has presented Iran with a “stark choice” – accede to Western demands and join the “community of nations” or “face even more pressure and isolation.” Iran scoffs at both options.
Still, there are signs that Iran and the West can reach an agreement. Both Iran and the United States have said they are open to more talks. And though the United States would like Iran to halt enrichment entirely, a feasible middle ground exists. As Colin Powell stated recently on Meet The Press:
- … I think if you take them at their word, “trust, but verify,” Reagan’s old line… then put in place a set of sanctions that would be devastating to them if they violate that agreement, and then put in place an IAEA inspection regime… you might be able to live with an Iran that has a nuclear power capability…
Covert activities risk undermining this possibility. The United States needs to show Iran that a genuine settlement is possible. If Iran fears that U.S. covert intervention will continue, Iran is unlikely to sign on to an agreement of the sort Powell described. As in 1953, by pursuing the sabotage option, the United States is sacrificing its long-term interests for short-term gains.