Thomas Pickering, member of the PSA Advisory Board, along with esteemed colleges Anthony Zinni and Jim Walsh authored this Op-ed originally published in the Chicago Tribune.
What to do about Iran?
Adlai Stevenson once advised that “to act coolly, intelligently and prudently in perilous circumstances is the true test of a man — and also of a nation.” In the face of Iran’s potential for becoming a nuclear weapons state and a threat to Israel, U.S. leaders would be smart to follow Stevenson’s advice and act prudently and intelligently.
There is little doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose dangerous challenges to U.S. interests and security, as well as to the security of Israel. There is no question of the seriousness of the problems presented by Iran’s nuclear program or the need to consider the use of military force as a last resort.
This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
Putin’s Complicated Foreign Policy
Within weeks of being inaugurated in his third term as the President of Russia in May, Vladimir Putin announced his decisions to skip the G-8 summit at Camp David, and to send Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his place to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in London, sending commentators in the Western world into a frenzy. Many in the United States proclaimed (and mourned) the end of the Russia reset. This view only increased as Putin appeared to turn his attention to his immediate neighbor, Belarus, making his first international visit with President Alexander Lukashenko, and then attending a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Additionally, Putin has joined China in opposing UN efforts to sanction Syria, a move that has frustrated many, while Russia continues to supply the Assad regime with weapons. Although the Russian reset with the West technically took place during Dmitri Medvedev’s presidency, there is little doubt that then-Prime Minister Putin was heavily involved in this decision (as well as most others). What, then, explains this sudden and drastic shift?
Retired Adm. William J. Fallon was head of U.S. Central Command from 2007 to 2008. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, was a U.S. senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009. Former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton was vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission. Thomas Pickering was undersecretary of state for political affairs from 1997 to 2000 and previously served as U.S. ambassador to Russia, Israel, Jordan and the United Nations. Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni was head of U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000. This blog posting previously appeared in the Washington Post.
War with Iran is not inevitable, but U.S. national security would be seriously threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran. Particularly given the recent speeches at the U.N. General Assembly, military action is being discussed intensely. Public discussion of military action, however, is often reduced to rhetoric and partisan politics. We propose a nonpartisan, reasoned debate about the implications for the United States of another war in the wider Middle East.
Ambassador Crocker Speaks on Middle East Issues After Leaving State Dept.
On September 17, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, appearing in his first public event since his tour in Kabul. A small audience was given special insight into arguably the most experienced living U.S. Ambassador with assignments in the Middle East. Ambassador Crocker has served in Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and, most recently, Afghanistan. Having returned to civilian life, Crocker often stated to the audience that he was now a “free” man. As such, the audience was privileged to have this opportunity to hear from someone who has spent nearly 40 years abroad and could speak candidly and honestly about situations on the ground and the relationships between states in the region.
This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Fellowship Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Fellows who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
The Timing Just Isn’t Right
What is preventing the United States and Russia from pursuing further nuclear disarmament talks beyond the New START treaty?
In the U.S., a flurry of debate has taken place among elected officials and the arms control community since the enactment of the New START treaty. The debate has centered on determining the number of weapons needed to maintain a minimal deterrent, modernization of the strategic triad, the role of missile defense and what role and utility do nuclear weapons have in our defense strategy today. Skeptics of further disarmament have argued that larger reductions, without adequate modernization, will lead to instability by inviting aggression against allies who are considered protected by the U.S.’s extended deterrent. Those in favor of disarmament have countered that the current U.S. arsenal far exceeds what is necessary to deter nuclear attack and reducing the force level would be a smart way to meet defense spending targets set in the Budget Control Act. Despite the timeliness of the budgetary argument, the skeptics are clearly carrying the day, as both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act include robust funding levels for the nuclear triad and provide funding for large modernization projects not requested in the President’s budget.
This article was written by Sen. Gary Hart and Rep. Lee Hamilton, members of PSA’s Advisory Board, and Matthew Hodes, PSA Executive Director. The article originally appeared in The Huffington Post.
Enlarging the Frame
With the next round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran coming up on May 23rd in Baghdad, we know that the parties have concluded further talks could be useful. But it still appears that the central thrust of the P5+1 (the U.S., U.K., China, Russia, France and Germany) will be limited to immediate concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and not the underlying issues that define Iran’s relationship with the international community. While we must hope that approach bears fruit, we must not lose sight of the wider frame that represents the more strategic approach, and just possibly, offers a higher likelihood of long term success.
We already know what one version of negotiations limited to the nuclear agenda can produce. In 2010, Brazil and Turkey brokered a potential deal with Iran, consistent with Iran’s existing obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that would have dealt with the enrichment issue currently under discussion but the U.S. government rejected that approach, choosing to pursue a stricter sanctions regime in the U.N. Security Council. At the same time, we also have evidence of what broader, more comprehensive negotiations might look like. In 2003, a memo, provided by the then-Swiss Ambassador to Iran, described the outline of a comprehensive U.S.-Iran negotiation process. The U.S. government questioned its legitimacy and took no action. Regardless of its provenance, the memo provided an illustration of the critical interests, the underlying issues, both for the U.S. and for Iran. Any negotiation with the Iranians over their nuclear program will stand a better chance of success if the broader issues that have created tensions since 1979, especially Iran’s role in the Middle East region, can be resolved.
What interests would the U.S. and the West want to promote and protect? Paraphrasing the memo, we would want an Iran that had no nuclear weapons or weapons program, with verification from IAEA without obstruction; we would want Iran to end its support to terror groups, including but not limited to Hamas and Hezbollah; we would want Iran to end its efforts to thwart Arab-Israeli peace and accept the two-state solution concept and; we would want an end to any effort to de-stabilize governments in the region and cooperation in efforts of the international community in Iraq and Afghanistan. Put simply, the U.S. will insist that Iran behave like a responsible neighbor in the region and submit itself to appropriate scrutiny to prove it is behaving in that manner.
What interests would the Iranians want to promote and protect? Iran would want an end to efforts to de-stabilize the current regime and acceptance into the international community of nations; Iran would want a lifting of all sanctions; Iran would want access to peaceful nuclear technology and; Iran would want Western recognition of Iranian security interests in the region. Put simply, Iran will want to normalize its status in the world and feel secure from any threats of regime change.
Thomas Pickering and William Luers, respected former U.S. diplomats, used a similar line of thought. In a recent article they used as a point of reference Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 and described the anecdote in which Nixon wrote down what the Chinese would want, what we would want and what we both would want, describing this list as Nixon’s “analytical pillars.” Applying that framework to U.S.-Iran relations, they suggested a set of shared interests that one could easily take from the aims described above. They suggested that both Iran and the United States would want stability in the region, the end of terrorism, the reincorporation of Iran into the international community, and no war. Barry Blechman of the Stimson Center has also weighed in, suggesting a broader agenda that would include the issue of nuclear weapons. Far from being a sign of weakness, our willingness to offer both carrots and sticks would show our confidence. The Iranians would know that there is an alternative to war or capitulation; at the same time we would not remove military options from our list of contingencies should comprehensive negotiations fail.
As we approach the next round of negotiations, we must beware of extreme voices that will want to limit the conversation to an expansion of threats — a structure of confrontation or capitulation. Bellicose words can box us in just as they can box in the Iranians, making a military confrontation more likely. We would be better served by quiet, frank discussions about our respective interests and our potentially shared interests. We should never forget that during the Cold War, we faced an adversary that was equipped and prepared to destroy us and our allies. But while we never let our guard down, we nevertheless looked for opportunities to cooperate. Eventually, we found areas of mutual interest that helped build confidence in our ability to manage that complicated relationship. That policy worked for us during the Cold War; it should work for us with a regional actor today.
Don’t look now, but foreign policy is back on this year’s election agenda.
While Election 2012 is still very much about the economy, foreign policy issues are increasingly making a comeback. And as the conversation focuses more on Iran, foreign policy is emerging not because of a lack of news about the economy, but rather because of the increasing connection between the two topics.
The tensions between the U.S. and Iran illustrate the linkage. In response to the European oil boycott, Iran recently announced that it was cutting off exports to Britain and France, which, in part, drove oil benchmarks to a nine-month high of nearly $123 a barrel. This, in turn, “could prove worrisome for U.S. drivers since many U.S. refineries use imported oil to produce gas”. Gas prices are already rising across the country – currently the national average is above $3.50 a gallon – and many worry that gas prices could rise beyond $4 a gallon by the summer. There are even concerns that gas could spike to $5 a gallon if tensions surge.
William Cohen is a member of PSA’s Advisory Board and former Secretary of Defense (1997-2001). This article originally appeared in The Hill newspaper.
Crossing the Rubicon
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently visited Israel and called for greater engagement between our two countries. Given the fact that it’s difficult to find a closer political bond between two countries anywhere in this galaxy, one would surmise that there’s little distance to travel to cement the relationship between our two democracies. After all, we share similar values, ideals and interests.
There exists, however, a singular and important difference within this triangle of bonded friendship. Israel lives in a neighborhood that is far more unstable than that enjoyed by the United States. The geographic proximity of those whose stated goal is to vanquish the state of Israel — and who could soon have the capacity to do so — causes the Israelis to view threats through a different prism.
Today the European Union announced an escalation of their sanctions against Iran. According to the new guidelines, the 27 member nations will end any oil contracts with Iran by July 1st and any assets held by the Iranian central bank within the EU will be frozen, with a limited exemption to continue legitimate trade. While this new oil embargo will go a long way in satisfying European public opinion, it is unlikely that it will have the desired effect on the Iranian regime and, most importantly, has huge potential to backfire.
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Advisory Board Member and former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, discusses his recommendations for U.S. Policy in Iran. His recommendations include greater cooperation with the United Nations, collaboration with regional partners, and intelligence sharing in addition to many other points of leverage and influence the United States could use. The article originally appeared here on CNN.
Washington (CNN) — Longtime observers of the Middle East are baffled by allegations that high-ranking officials in the Iranian government approved a plan to assassinate Saudi Arabia Ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, and blow up the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington. Commentators have described the plan as “brazen,” but “bizarre” and ‘bone-headed” might be more appropriate adjectives.
It’s difficult to comprehend either the motives or the means selected to carry out the plan outlined by the Justice Department in its criminal indictment of Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are not new, but Iran has been both cautious and clever enough to restrain its ambitions for regional dominance.
If the allegations of the assassination and bombing plot are true, and the covert operation had proved successful, Iran’s leaders would have invited retaliation on a scale far more vigorous than any they might have contemplated. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that the Iranian landscape would likely have been substantially altered.
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.