By Daniel Luban
Andrew Sullivan picks up on this piece from the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) blog that came out Friday; it’s one of the better (and most concise) analyses of the state of the Iran debate in Washington that I’ve seen. NIAC notes that roles have seemingly reversed since Iran’s election crisis began: former proponents of engagement (such as Roger Cohen and NIAC’s own Trita Parsi) are now calling for a pause in the engagement strategy while the clash between reformists and hardliners plays itself out, while many hawks who were previously engagement skeptics are calling for negotiations to move full speed ahead — and end abruptly if they do not bear immediate fruit.
(If there’s one point I would take issue with in the piece, it’s the notion that this is somehow a sudden “role reversal” for the hawks. On the contrary, since Obama’s victory most hawks have been more than willing to pay lip service to the engagement idea, all while setting an absurdly short deadline for ending negotiations and moving to sanctions. For those in the Dennis Ross school of diplomacy, a half-hearted and perfunctory stab at engagement is useful precisely because it allows the U.S. to claim that it has “tried everything else” when it moves to sanctions or military force.)
What are the stakes of this conflict? NIAC summarizes:
The perma-skeptics of diplomacy think we should impose an artificial deadline, rush to engage, and then run headlong into Iran’s political paralysis. Their plan would have us miss the deadline, sanction Iran as much as possible, and then lobby for the U.S. to bomb Iran when sanctions fail to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Of course, this is an incredibly foolish “solution.” As every Iran expert worth their salt has noted, bombing Iran is perhaps the only thing that can cement this government’s hold on power indefinitely into the future.
With Israel’s head of intelligence publicly saying Iran won’t be able to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon until 2014 at the earliest, the U.S. can and should wait for the right time to engage.
IPS’s Ali Gharib also had a good analysis of the state of the Iran debate last week which examines these issues in more depth.
[Cross-posted at The Faster Times.]