Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Commentary by a Top CFR Analyst on Iran

Currently, the P5+1 (United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) nuclear negotiation with Iran is in progress. I would like to talk of the Iran problem further in detail in forthcoming posts. In this post, I would like to review an interview to Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, on November 11. Takeyh insists that the Iran issue needs broader approaches, beyond focusing on nonproliferation.

This interview is valuable, because Takeyh points out that Iranian foreign policy is defined by domestic politics, rather than identifying its national interests on the global stage. Therefore, he says that the United States and other stakeholders take broad ranged issues into account, and not simply focus on nuclear negotiations.

This is critical to discuss Western approaches to Iran in a political turbulence since the presidential election this June. The Vienna talk in this October may be a progress in nonproliferation negotiation, but Takeyh says that domestic politics makes Iranian attitude erratic and unpredictable. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may suggest counterproposals to the P5+1, but they are not necessarily based on well-defined national interests. Therefore, I have to say that economic incentives for the theocratic regime regarding uranium enrichment do not necessarily work.

Instead of focusing entirely on nuclear issues, Takeyh comments that the P5+1 find common goals with Iran in broader issues like Iraq, Gulf security, and the Middle East peace process. An agreement with Iran in other issues will help advance nuclear talks, according to him. I agree to this point, because these security issues are closely intertwined with Iran’s nuclear ambition. Also, I would like to mention that Libya abandoned the nuclear project because Khadafy needs Western help to curb domestic threats of Islamic radicals.

As Takehy mentions influence of domestic politics on Iran’s attitude to nuclear negotiations, it is logical to use the Cold War tactics to pressure Iran for human rights issues. The Obama administration was too cautious to blame Iran for the repression associated with the presidential election this year.

Ray Takeyh suggests helpful guidelines to deal with Iran in such a brief interview. Iran has been one of the most critical threats since the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Therefore, I would like to talk of Iran furthermore in forthcoming posts.

It appears that the Obama administration hesitates to provoke Iran on other issues, and focus entirely on nuclear negotiations. But such a low risk diplomacy is no pain and no gain.