William J. Perry is a former secretary of defense and PSA Advisory Board member. Sean O’Keefe is a former secretary of the Navy and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Adm. James Stavridis (ret.) served as NATO’s supreme commander. Joe R. Reeder is a former undersecretary of the Army. The article originally appeared in the Politico Magazine.
Let’s Make the Deal with Iran
We can’t let partisan infighting destroy what could be a historic nuclear pact.
America is the safest when its leaders work together to effectively meet national security and foreign policy challenges. Yet partisan infighting threatens to upend our nation’s best chance to stem the very real Iranian nuclear threat.
The latest round of negotiations has the United States and Iran mulling a nuclear agreement that would prevent Tehran from amassing enough material to make a bomb for at least 10 years. President Obama says he doesn’t need congressional approval, while lawmakers say they will pore over the terms or even force a vote. Congress also could effectively kill the agreement by refusing to lift or adding to existing sanctions against Iran. The equation gets even more complicated with the addition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech next week before a joint session of Congress, when he is expected to make the case against any pact with Iran.
Tara Sonenshine is former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, a former PSA Board of Directors member, and currently a distinguished fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. This article was originally published in the Washington Times
Pseudo-states and Strange Bedfellows Blur Borderlines
Were it not so deadly serious, it would be satirical. The United States is losing its sense of geospatial positioning. We may be one of the few “countries” left in the world — replaced by a series of pseudo-states, groups and strange bedfellows.
Imagine having to teach geography in 2014, let alone understand it. That spinning globe we used to use, with color-coded countries and bright borders, national flags and easy-to-pronounce places hardly seems useful. We may need a 2014 Guide to Groups within Countries.
Jenifer Mackby is a Senior Adviser at Partnership for a Secure America. She worked on the negotiations and implementation of the CTBT and has served in senior positions at a number of international organizations focusing on nuclear, biological, and conventional weapons issues. Mackby is the co-author of several books on these subjects and has appeared in The New York Times, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and National Defense University publications.
What are the Benefits of a CTBT?
While waves of generations in many countries have fought for a treaty to ban nuclear weapon test explosions, the U.S. Congress has been divided on the issue in recent decades. The Senate rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999 by a vote of 51-48, putting it on the same side of the street as those it finds most unsavory– North Korea, Iran, Pakistan. In a 2009 bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the U.S., the CTBT was the only issue on which they could not agree. However, given new political realities and new scientific findings about verification capabilities, many in the national security community now support the treaty and believe it should be re-visited.
Thomas Pickering is former US ambassador to Venezuela and Czechoslovakia; and former US Under Secretary of State and ambassador to Israel, Russia, India, the UN and Jordan. Mr. Pickering is a member of PSA’s Advisory Board. William Luers, director of the Iran Project, co-authored the article. The article was originally published in the Financial Times.
Diplomatic Success Always Trumps a Military Victory
Diplomatic negotiations with Iran strike many Americans as an oxymoron. How could serious negotiations be conducted with a nation we have distrusted for decades, that has persisted in developing a nuclear programme, has threatened Israel and is involved in terrorist activities?
Yet the same Americans are quick to oppose a military solution. So the conclusion is that diplomacy must be tried. To help Americans understand that diplomacy can be used to manage some of the toughest problems, former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz have written an article endorsing diplomacy. It is hard to disagree.
Sam Nunn is the Co-Chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and former US Senator from Georgia. Mr. Nunn is a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors. This speech was originally published on NTI’s website.
Remarks by Senator Sam Nunn to the American Nuclear Society
Thank you, Jim Rogers, for your introduction and for your outstanding leadership. I particularly want to thank Jim and all gathered here today for the work of this Society – helping the world benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear science.
On this Veterans Day, I would also like to recognize one of our nation’s most outstanding public servants and veterans, former Senator Pete Domenici.
I am delighted to join George Shultz, who addresses every challenge with energy, optimism, keen intellect and wisdom. He is always looking to the future – with one exception. When George attended Henry Kissinger’s 90th birthday party, he reflected, “Ah, Henry — to be 90 again!” I also thank Sid Drell for proving many times that a brilliant theoretical physicist can make a profound empirical difference in the security of his country and the world.
All Americans should be grateful for the remarkable work that the people in this room have done to improve and ensure safety and efficiency in the nuclear field. Preventing accidents is absolutely essential. The future of nuclear energy depends equally on security: preventing the theft of weapons-usable materials—either highly enriched uranium or separated plutonium—that could lead to a terrorist nuclear attack. Nuclear energy also depends on avoiding a dangerous future where a state acquires technology for peaceful purposes, then uses it for nuclear weapons. Safety, security and nonproliferation are the three key links in the chain to assure the benefits of the atom for humanity.
The author, Christina Vachon, is a graduate student at George Washington University where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in International Security Studies. She is currently an intern at the Partnership for a Secure America and has a research interest in security policy in the Middle East.
When Iran Gets the Bomb
Even though a short term deal with Iran has been reached, the US should prepare for the chance that Iran will cheat. As talks continue toward a long term agreement, the US should assess what Iran, the Middle East, and the world will look like if Iran gets the bomb. There is a lack of consensus on what happens if and when Iran gets the bomb. Due to the uncertainty that exists about Iran and its program, continued diplomatic efforts are important in order to gain more information about the situation, to better relations, and to prepare for a nuclear Iran. It is important though that all options remain on the table in order to protect US interests.
Jayson Browder is a decorated Air Force and Iraq Veteran. A recent graduate of Fordham University, Jayson was named a National Finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship in 2012 and was recently awarded the William J. Fulbright Scholarship for 2013 to Turkey. Currently Jayson holds a position as a Military Legislative Assistant for Congressman Beto O’Rourke in the United States House of Representatives. This article originally appeared on PolicyMic.
Congress’ Iran Policy: Short Sighted and Irrational
Clear thought, rational thinking, and innovative ideas are desperately needed in the 113th Congress. Unfortunately, a large number of members of the House of Representatives have let short-term priorities and easy political points cloud their judgment. This has made for some poor and unfortunate votes that, for some partial short-term gains, will have long-term repercussions for the United States and our allies abroad. Examples of this include the failure to pass a budget for four years, the failure to solve the sequester, the failure to solve the debt ceiling, and most recently, the votes to place more stringent sanctions than ever on Iran.
By William Luers, Thomas R. Pickering, and Jim Walsh. Thomas Pickering is a PSA Advisory Board Member and a former US Ambassador to the United Nations. The article was originally published in the New York Review of Books.
For a New Approach to Iran
Could this be the year for an engagement with Iran that “is honest and grounded in mutual respect,” as President Obama proposed over four years ago? That goal seems unlikely without a shift in Iranian thinking and without a change in American diplomatic and political strategy. But two developments, one in Iran and one in the region, provide reason to think that diplomatic progress might be possible.
The first is Iran’s recent presidential election, which Hassan Rouhani won thanks to an alliance between Iran’s reformist and moderate camps. Together with the departure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this may provide the Obama administration the chance to start a new phase of relations with Iran. The second development is the war in Syria, which has the potential to grow into a region-wide Shia–Sunni conflict. This poses a direct threat to Iran’s vital interests, giving Tehran an incentive to reduce tensions with the international community.2
Iran and the United States have many important differences, but an agreement on Iran’s nuclear capability should be a critical priority. This could open the door to conversations with Iran regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. A functioning US-Iranian relationship could also help advance diplomatic efforts on Syria.
Megan Fantoni is an intern at Partnership for a Secure America. She is a graduate of Tufts University where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and History.
The Path to a Surprising Victor in the Iranian Presidential Election
The Iranian election of Hassan Rouhani catalyzed an international discussion on the implications of the moderate candidate’s victory. As the only moderate candidate on the ticket, Hassan Rouhani’s decisive 51% victory in a six-way presidential race demanded the attention of the international community and highlighted unrest within the Iranian population. More jarring than the fact that Rouhani received the most votes in the election is the fact that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamanei, appears ready to allow the moderate party to officially take hold of the presidency. Only four years ago Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected amidst widespread violence at the poll, vote miscounts, and a generally corrupt presidential election.
Various factors attributed to this surprising result. First, the Principlist Party was unable to unite and rally behind one leader. In the last stages of the campaign, the other moderate candidates dropped out of the race and publicly supported Rouhani. On the other hand, on election day, there were five separate conservative candidates. With the conservative vote split five ways, it would be very hard for one conservative candidate to gain a majority vote. It would have been possible for Khamanei to alter the election results to secure a conservative victory if there was one Principlist candidate, rather than a compilation of five separate conservative candidates. As we look at the results, it is impressive to see that Rouhani received over half of the country’s vote; however, it is also evident that almost half (49%) of the country still strongly agrees with the conservative ideology and may affect any shifts in future policy.
Some scholars go as far as to say that Rouhani’s victory can largely be attributed to the anti-conservative feelings towards the Iranian government and current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The people of Iran have suffered under the economic strain of international sanctions imposed on Iran because of its nuclear program. In a recent panel, Karim Sadjadpour from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated that the election “was a reflection of profound discontent with the status quo, rather than a deep-seated affinity for the candidate himself.” Rouhani’s campaign platform included rhetoric such as ending an “era or extremism” and “hope and prudence” – language in stark contrast to that of the conservatives. The late rush of support from the voters of Iran derives from frustration over the current government and countrywide economic and social hardship.
Another factor contributing to Rouhani’s victory was the televised four-hour-long presidential debate on May 31st. Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institute stated in her testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the presidential debate was one of the most important factors in the election because it included anti-isolationist rhetoric that appealed to the Iranian people who desperately want change in their country. Challenging the official narrative of the Islamic Republic, the debate fueled citizens to vote moderate in the hopes of improving their country’s economic stance and international presence.
As important as Rouhani’s victory was, U.S. policymakers and scholars alike have advised caution towards this new leader. Members of Congress and scholars from Brookings Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, and the Carnegie Endowment in a recent panel have all made the same point: Rouhani is only a moderate leader when viewed in the context of current politics in Iran. To enter into the presidential race, Rouhani was approved by the Supreme Leader and, in effect, the conservative faction. Mr. Sadjadpour describes Rouhani’s politics in maintaining the ideals of the Islamic Republic by “moderating its style more than substance.”
Moving forward from Rouhani’s surprise election, critics are re-examining Western policy towards Iran and how this might shift with the new president. Almost universally, experts are stating that U.S. and international sanctions have been successful in adding pressure on the government of Iran. Acknowledging the relative success of the sanctions imposed on Iran, many in Washington have urged for deepening and broadening sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program. In addition to urging continual pressure, Ray Tekeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations warns that Rouhani will be a tougher adversary because he is a skilled negotiator, and his seemingly more reasonable requests may cause fractions in the international coalition opposed to the nuclear program.
Although there remain many questions about what kind of leader Rouhani will be and how his policies will change Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, his election reflects the widespread disapproval of the Supreme Leader and the conservative party by the Iranian people. Rouhani steps into his presidency in August with a small mandate calling for a shift in policy and for an improvement in economic and social climate in the country. Still, one must wonder if the Supreme Leader will permit a genuine deviation from his hard-line position on the nuclear program and relations with the rest of the world. With Rouhani’s election, this may be an opportune time to test how much moderation and flexibility on the nuclear question he brings to his office.
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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.
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.