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Sunday, December 27, 2009

The carrot and the stick

Writing in Haaretz, Emily B. Landau, of the Institute for National Security Studies describes what it will take for a successful conclusion to negotiations with Iran.
[T]he United States must not waste any more time trying to negotiate interim deals with Iran that are devised either to test whether its intentions are peaceful, or to build confidence. It should be focused on the final deal, which it should negotiate with Iran bilaterally. As long as the P5+1 countries (the nuclear powers - the United States, Russia, France, the U.K. and China - plus Germany) are not on the same page with regard to Iran, the multilateral format weakens their collective ability to confront it with the necessary determination.

The United States must also find a way to communicate true resolve to Iran. Projecting the idea that there is no realistic scenario in which the United States would use military force is counterproductive in this regard, as are indications that Afghanistan and Pakistan are much higher on the American agenda than Iran, and hints that the United States could successfully contain a nuclear Iran.

As Iran gets closer to its goal, it is becoming bolder in its willingness and demonstrated ability to challenge the international community. It could still become interested in negotiating a deal with the United States, but only if a common interest is created, and if there are real consequences for failing to negotiate seriously. Only the United States can fulfill the role of the determined bilateral negotiator. But if the message it conveys is that it lacks the political will to make Iran a top diplomatic priority, or if it shies away from the bilateral format and clear demonstration of its resolve - then diplomacy doesn't stand a chance.
I would look at this as a carrot and stick approach. The problem with the approach until now is that the Obama administration has handed Iran lots of carrots but has not used any sticks. The problem is that each of the elements Landau describes goes against the President's most basic beliefs.

Obama believes in the multilateral approach. He is the anti-Bush. Where Bush was a cowboy who was willing to go it alone if the world wouldn't play along with him, Obama will do nothing without a consensus. The consensus wants to go slow with Iran in the mistaken belief that even if it goes nuclear it can be contained, and that's what Obama will do. But then going slow is what Obama would want to do anyway.

Obama is seemingly incapable of understanding that without a military option looming, the odds of bringing Iran to the table in a serious manner - let alone getting it to change course - are somewhere between slim and none. For the Iranians, the unrestricted development of a nuclear capability is a matter of pride. Many Iranians may not be interested in developing nuclear weapons, but given the pernicious nature of the regime, the only way to halt it from developing nuclear weapons is to halt the nuclear program altogether. Ultimately, the only way to halt the nuclear program altogether may be (and probably is) by force. Obama the pacifist cannot acknowledge that. And since it's 'only Israel' that's the first target, he probably doesn't really care.

Obama has no will to stop Iran. He's hoping they'll stop on their own, but if they don't, he believes he can contain the consequences. He has no sticks, only carrots.

What could go wrong?


At 7:12 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Exactly. Obama cannot see a situation where the US would have to win. He is adverse to pursuing victory for the US anywhere, even in Afghanistan. Thus, the prospect of the US seeking one in Iran in the next year range from slim to none. That's the reality.


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