Iran Project Report Assesses Debate Over New Sanctions

by Jim Lobe

The Iran Project has just published the first in a series of “Short Reports” on Iran, its negotiations with the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany), and U.S. policy, which it plans to put out over the next few months. This one, entitled “Assessing Claims and Counter Claims over New Sanctions,” reviews the recent debate over the Kirk-Menendez bill. S. 1881, which I called the “Wag the Dog Act of 2013.” Among other conclusions, the report, which was drafted by Jim Walsh, an international security expert at MIT, finds that new sanctions at this time would likely undermine the prospects for a successful negotiation, particularly given the fact that all of the parties in the P5+1 are themselves clearly opposed to the legislation. It also found that new sanctions may yet prove useful, but not when negotiations are just getting underway, as they did today in Vienna. And it noted that some critics of the bill, presumably including some administration officials, probably overstated the intentions of many of the bill’s 59 co-sponsors as deliberately wanting to sabotage the negotiations (as opposed, presumably, to deliberately wanting to sabotage President Obama). In any event, you can find the new report here.

The Iran Project, which has involved an impressive number of foreign policy veterans led by Amb. William Luers (ret.) and Amb. Thomas Pickering (ret), who served as Washington’s chief envoy in virtually every hot spot — from Moscow to San Salvador and from Lagos and Tel Aviv to Turtle Bay (in the run-up to and during the first Gulf War) — has itself conducted Track II diplomacy with leading Iranians over the past decade or so, including and especially many of the same Iranians, such as Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who have filled key posts in Hassan Rouhani’s government. The group has also played a key role in shaping the elite debate here over Iran during the past few years. Although it has maintained a relatively low public profile, opponents of the engagement policy, of which AIPAC and the Israel lobby are the most important, know how effective the Project has been.

In addition to Luers, Pickering and Walsh, the new report is signed by Amb. Frank Wisner (ret.); Paul Pillar, the CIA veteran who served as the National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace president Jessica Tuchman Mathews; and Rockefeller Brothers Fund president Stephen Heintz. Upcoming reports will include an analysis of the Nov. 24, 2013, accord between Iran and the P5+1 (the Joint Plan of Action, or JPA); the issues that must be addressed in a comprehensive agreement; and the challenges of lifting sanctions if a comprehensive agreement is indeed reached.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. There are those on both sides of this, who have their agendas, which aren’t in the interest of seeking a peaceful solution. Keeping that military option in view or on the table as it may be, seems to be a threat to Iran to bend to the demands of the U.S., regardless of the consequences. It seems from this item, that nothing has been learned in the U.S. in the 35 years since the change. Again, ignorance/stupidity may lead the M.E. into war, but those idiots sitting in their leather covered chairs, could be in for the biggest surprise of their lives if it does.

  2. Any comprehensive report on Iran (including MIT’s Iran Project) should also take into consideration the ticking clock of climate change. John Kerry’s recent statement that climate change is also a weapon of mass destruction is an understatement at best.

    With this perspective the benefits of a respectable, though perhaps not perfect, negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran has numerous benefits to the entire world: including (i) resolves a substantial tension is world affairs so that all of us can focus on the changes needed to address CC; (ii) reduces one of the increased risks associated with CC – nuclear war, by puting in place a compelling model for nuclear disarmament that can be implemented elsewhere; and (ii) brings Iran, one of the largest oil producing nations, into an international agreement that can become the precursor to future CC agreements involving all oil and carbon producing countries.

    Your thoughts?

  3. Some of the promoters of the foolish “Wag the Dog” bill, want to hurt Obama and prevent, if possible, any improvement in America’s relations with Iran.

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