Will the US choose war or peace with Iran?

The National Iranian American Council’s Reza Marashi, who served at the Office of Iranian Affairs at the US Department of State during the transition from the Bush to Obama administration, on the key foreign policy issue facing the next president of the United States:

Political parties in the US do not dictate the range of options available to an American president. Obama and Romney face the same reality: the tools of statecraft are simple – war or diplomacy. Anything else – whether it is called containment, regime change or dual track – is simply a tactic that delays the inevitable choice between these two options. The inconvenient truth of statecraft is that most conflicts – even war – end via negotiations; and everything before negotiations – including war – is for leverage. Efforts to delay this inevitable choice have only added pressure to escalate to the worst possible outcome.

If the next US President wants peace, he must recalibrate US policy to consider seriously the political, economic and security incentives sought by Iran – incentives that any diplomatic solution would have to address. This does not imply that concessions must be made on each of these fronts. Only robust diplomacy can determine whether it is in America’s interest to address Iranian concerns. But if America does not lead a process of sustained negotiations, then diplomacy will be deemed one-sided, and will fail without having being executed in good faith.

Naturally, it takes two to tango. No policy can guarantee success, and it remains unclear whether Iran will reciprocate American overtures. But if peace is the metric of success, then diplomacy provides a better guarantee than war. With that in mind, the next US President can best avoid mistakes like the Iraq war by learning from limits of American military prowess – and placing the same level of confidence in the power of American diplomacy.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.



  1. I think that the war is very likely. The goal of sanctions is to weaken Iran so that it can’t fight back vigorouosly when struck. Someone mentioned the fifth fleet few days ago in this blog. He put his finger on the spot. Iran’s ultimate goal is to defend itself against US navy and air force that have surrounded her in an inevitable war. Israel is a side show; it is a pretext that US has to use (that is the attack by Israel and then Iran’s response to it however meager and US going to war to defend Israel), akin to the excuse of WMD in Iraq, to justify its attack on Iran. The real protagonists are the US and Iran.
    But Iran is aware of American weaknesses: the rich client regimes across the gulf are too shaky esp. in the aftermath of the Arab spring. The stakes for US in this poker game is way too high.

  2. I disagree, the goal of sanctions is to turn the people against the regime and bring about the overthrow of the clerical regime. Why get involved in another land war when you can force the people to do your dirty work for you?

    Only after regime change will the American government give any real respect to the diplomatic track.

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