NEGOTIATING WITH IRAN: MEETING TH NECESSATY REQUIREMENTS
By Anthony Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy
01 Oct 13. Those who oppose U.S. and Iranian negotiations need to realize that this is almost certainly the last chance for a real solution before Iran moves to the point of no return both politically and in terms of nuclear capability. Iranian politics virtually ensure that if this President’s first attempt to negotiate fails, there will not be a second. They also virtually ensure Iran’s Supreme Leader will not show the same tentative flexibility.
It is the last chance before Israel must choose between preventive attacks and upgrading its nuclear strike capability to ensure it can achieve decisive nuclear superiority or at least mutually assured destruction. It is the last chance for the United States to choose between far larger preventive strikes and a far stronger form of containment, making good on Secretary Clinton’s offer of “extended deterrence.” It is the last chance between the Arab Gulf states not only to work with the United States to ensure containment but to consider their own nuclear options.
Anyone who opposes such talks or negotiations needs to consider both the timing and the consequences of not pursuing this last option. The alternatives are either a war of preventive strikes that may prove all too difficult to control, or a nuclear arms race in the Gulf that is almost certain to go far beyond a limited Iranian breakout capability. At the same time, there is no more room for good intentions, open-ended negotiations, and letting rhetoric take the place of reality.
The First Requirement: Dealing with Our Allies and the World
The first requirement has nothing to do with Iran. The initial U.S. steps in talking to Iran have fueled virtually every fear and conspiracy theory in the region at a time when U.S. credibility had been severely weakened by the way the United States has dealt with Egypt, Syria, and Bahrain.
It also has all too clearly reopened all of the Israeli concerns over U.S. actions, and potentially created a climate that could undermine European, Russian, Chinese, and UN support for a strong stand on sanctions and efforts to put pressure on Iran long before it takes real steps to limit its nuclear programs.
The United States needs to act immediately to restore trust in the region. It needs to make it clear to Israel, the Arab states, and Turkey that the United States is not letting hope triumph over experience, turning away from its security partnerships in the region, or making some kind of strange devil’s bargain to replace its current allies with Iran.
The United States needs to make it absolutely clear to everyone – including Iran – that it will only ease its own sanctions if progress is real and that it will work closely with the 5+1, EU, and regional states and demand that they be equally realistic.
The need to make it clear that its military options are still being kept active and the threat of preventive strikes continues. It must make it clear that it will continue to work with regional powers to improve their capability to contain every aspect of Iran’s military forces and that if Iran does not act it will faces both the silent threat of steadily improving Israeli nuclear strike capability and a United States willing to make good on guarantees of extended deterrence; actions that will confront Iran with the reality that any Iranian nuclear program will face far more severe retaliatory capability regardless of whether preventive strikes take place or are effective.
The Need for Carefully Phased Incentives Tied to Clearly Defined Iranian Actions
At the same time, the United States needs to make it clear to Iran that there will be major incentives as well. The United States should not seek to “win” the negotiations, but rather to create a structure of negotiations where Iran sees the United States and its allies give it a matching inc