Should We Engage Iran Out of the NPT?

by Michael Landweber | December 3rd, 2009 | |Subscribe

Last Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a direct rebuke to Iran’s nuclear program, demanding that Iran cease construction of a new enrichment plant.  The final tally on the censure was 25-3, with Russia and China casting critical votes in favor of the motion.  Iran responded to the vote by suggesting that it might withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Maybe that would be a good thing.  No one in the Obama Administration would ever say that Iran withdrawing from the NPT is one of the U.S.’s policy goals, but it might just be the best achievable outcome.  I don’t see a problem if our engagement policy pushes Iran out of the NPT.

Of course, our main objective is a reversal in Iranian policy.  We want Iran to admit that it has been pursuing a nuclear weapons program and then verifiably dismantle it.  The Obama Administration is willing to engage directly with the Iranians to make this happen.  The problem is that, given Iran’s history of stalling public negotiations to buy time for covert nuclear programs, there is no reason to believe that the Iranians are going to change.

However, Obama’s engagement policy can be successful with either a positive or a negative response from Iran to our offers.  This is because by offering to engage Iran we are actually engaging Russia, China and the rest of the international community.  The more Iran spurns U.S. and global engagement, the most extreme instance of which would be withdrawal from the NPT, the closer our position aligns to necessary allies.  Russia and China’s votes on the IAEA censure are a clear sign that this is already happening.

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The War Within the War in Afghanistan

by John Prandato | December 1st, 2009 | |Subscribe

As President Obama prepares to announce his new strategy for Afghanistan in his address to the world tonight from West Point, it’s worth shedding light on a source of instability that will not be remedied by simply putting more boots on the ground. According to UNICEF, just 28% of Afghan adults are literate, ranking Afghanistan among the most illiterate countries in the world. It is not difficult to draw a correlation between a dearth of basic education and an inclination toward religious extremism. But illiteracy also breeds instability by fundamentally obstructing the flow of information, producing an environment susceptible to a “war of communication”. (more…)

Afghanistan questions I hope will be answered tonight

by Brian Vogt | December 1st, 2009 | |Subscribe

When President Obama addresses the nation tonight on the future direction of the war in Afghanistan, I will be anxiously waiting to see if he addresses lingering questions that remain in my mind regarding the strategy and America’s commitment.  We all know that the President will be requesting at least 30,000 more troops.  I’m  supportive of that decision.  We’re in a situation with no good options and this is probably the least bad of those available.  But we must not focus solely on troop numbers.   More troops without a realistic strategy for success would be a mistake.  I hope that President Obama addresses (1) how the United States will pressure Karzai for reform and (2) how this country will pay for the war effort.

There will be much talk tonight about how we must push Karzai to get serious about reforms and anticorruption efforts.  The need is clear. More than 8 in 10 Afghans report that the country is riddled with widespread corruption… and this poll was taken before the presidential election that generated widespread complaints of fraud.

The US counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan only works if there is a credible government that the Afghan population can turn to in place of the Taliban.  So far, the performance of the Afghan central government leads many to question if it provides a better alternative.  There will be much discussion of pushing the Afghan government to institute internal reforms and clean up its act.  The problem is that our leverage is quite limited.

This recent article by Helene Cooper described the dilemma pretty well.  Karzai knows that we’re reliant on him for our strategy to work.  If we threaten to pull troops out, we both lose.  So, it’s a hollow threat.  The question I’m left with is what other carrot and stick approaches might work?  The article refers to White House officials who say that there are other tools available.  I”m anxiously waiting to hear what they are. (more…)

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All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.