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.