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More On How to Handle Iran
With the next round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 (Russia, China, France, Britain, the United States and Germany) slated for Nov. 7-8 in Geneva, a final passage from Akbar Ganji’s essay in the September/October 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Ganji being an Iranian journalist and dissident who was imprisoned in Tehran from 2000 to 2006, and whose writings are currently banned in Iran.
In discussing just ‘Who is Ali Khamenei?’...the Supreme Leader...Ganji concludes:
“What Khamenei needs to know is that Washington is not determined to cripple or overthrow the Islamic Republic, and what the United States needs to know is that the Iranian nuclear project is peaceful, that Iran will not block free access to energy resources and regional sea-lanes, and that Israel can enjoy peace and security within its internationally recognized borders (which, some still hope, will be determined in a final settlement with the Palestinians). Iran can reassure Western governments that its nuclear project is peaceful by making it transparent and by ratifying and implementing the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocols on proliferation safeguards in exchange for its guaranteed right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The West, in turn, can reassure Iran that it is not bent on regime change by taking tangible practical measures in exchange for Iranian adherence to security and peace in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East – and it will have to do so in order to make significant progress on the nuclear front.
“Washington would be well advised to lift the economic sanctions, since whatever their aims, sanctions inflict damage on populations at large, not only or even primarily on the government officials who are their ostensible targets. This is as true in Iran as it is elsewhere, and it means that outside powers, and the United States in particular, are currently responsible for widespread unemployment, soaring inflation, and a massive increase in poverty. Under these circumstances, more and more middle-class families will join the ranks of the poor, and more children of the poor will fall victim to malnutrition, disease, and violence. Problems of daily survival will become the public’s main concern, issues of democracy and human rights will be marginalized, and Iran’s social fabric will be destroyed from within – just as happened in Iraq during the 1990s. That is not something the United States should want to see for any number of reasons.
Khamenei, for his part, must accept that in the long run, the only way to make the Islamic Republic truly powerful and sustainable is to legitimize his regime through the people’s free votes. The Soviet Union had the largest army in the world and amassed thousands of nuclear weapons, but it eventually collapsed. Even if Western governments forswear any intentions of regime change, Iran’s domestic problems will never be solved without democracy, freedom, and human rights.
“If the Obama administration is serious about pursuing a solution to the problems between Tehran and Washington, it would be well advised to develop a road map that specifies the unresolved issues in the Iranian nuclear file in a clear manner and sets out a timeline for investigating, resolving, and closing the cases one by one. Step-by-step progress on the nuclear front should be linked to step-by-step progress on lifting the sanctions. The administration would also be well advised to take a comprehensive approach to the region and embed discussions of the Iranian nuclear program in a broader frame-work of regional security, bringing Washington’s allies on board and minimizing those allies’ desire to play the spoiler. This would mean building a consensus around a set of rules for regional politics, guaranteeing borders and abjuring regime change as a policy, achieving real results in ending the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, working toward the eventual removal of weapons of mass destruction from the region, and supporting human rights across the Middle East.
“This is obviously a very tall order, but there is no other way to avoid the continuation, or even escalation, of the existing conflicts in the region. Confrontational policies on all sides over the last decade have yielded little except stalemate and misery. The election of Rohani as president showed the desire of the Iranian people to put a decisive end to the Ahmadinejad era, and it has created an opportunity for both Iran and the international community to move forward toward more constructive relations. That opportunity should be seized rather than ignored.”
Well, I would say thus far the Obama administration is following Ganji’s road map, but a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is bent on increasing the sanctions, not lessening them, and this is all coming to a head in the next week or so it would seem.
For its part, Israel would not agree with the above as expressed by Mr. Ganji, that’s for sure.
Hot Spots returns in a few weeks.