Former New York Times and Boston Globe correspondent Stephen Kinzer has an op-ed in the Boston Globe urging the Obama administration to follow India (and Turkey, and Brazil) on their approach to Iran. In light of Obama’s description of U.S.-India relations as “the defining partnership of the 21st century,” Kinzer notes that India views Iran not as some massive threat, but rather “as just another thuggish country with resources.” Instead of isolating Iran, India seeks to ameliorate Iran’s ill effects by enticing it back into the international fold.
While the intensifying confrontation between the United States and Iran disturbs India, an easing of tension would help stabilize both the Middle East and South Asia. It would certainly set off alarm bells, especially in Israel, where the idea of improved ties between Iran and the United States triggers instinctive panic. But Iran has so much to offer the United States strategically, beginning with its ability to help stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, that reconciliation makes good sense. Some in India want their country to press Washington to change its mind on this crucial question.
Kinzer notes that Turkey — and, I would add, Brazil — views Iran much the same way. Those two countries put together a fuel swap agreement which eminent U.S. foreign policy figures called a good “first step” in confidence building. But the Obama administration, still rejects that offer out-of-hand in favor of another that Iran is less likely to accept. In the fuel swap, Iran will maintain at least a bomb’s worth of its uranium stockpile. But with no deal at all, Iran keeps it all.
How long can Obama spurn these three great emerging democracies — all U.S. allies, (especially now India) — that have asked for a shift in U.S. policy towards Iran?