“Things do not have to be this way” between the U.S. and Iran

Writing in the New York Times, a former state department member who worked on Iran during the Bush administration, Reza Marashi, explains the U.S.’s real Iran problem: too much emphasis on intelligence and far too little on diplomacy

While serving in the State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs, I learned the 10 percent rule: intelligence is meant to make up approximately 10 percent of the overall information used to analyze strategic issues. The remaining 90 percent consists of embassy reporting and unclassified, open-source information.

As a whole, this symbiotic process is meant to provide a balanced, broader context to policymakers. Intelligence is supposed to be the missing piece of the puzzle — not the only piece. Overreliance on intelligence to support key policy decisions results in skewed or incomplete analysis that lacks the fuller context needed for sound decision-making. As this information vacuum grows over time, so too does the likelihood of misperceptions, miscalculations and dangerous mistakes.

Intelligence is not a substitute for the critical work of diplomats on the ground — and perhaps no foreign policy issue demonstrates this more forcefully than Iran. Simply put, a vital national security process has been broken for over three decades, and American politicians are exacerbating rather than repairing it.

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Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.