Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Foreign Policy Editorial

Reading up on the election in Iran, I found this interesting editorial. With Ahmadinejad up for re-election and a real possibility of Mohammad Khatami's return, many are saying this is a great time for Obama to make diplomatic headway.

However, Hillary Mann Leverett makes a compelling case that things are much as they are whoever is elected and that despite the personality of Iran's leader, the fundamentals haven't changed. She makes a particularly good case for engaging Iran diplomatically on all levels, not just a few limited arenas where "interests overlap."

Leverett offers a compelling explanation for Iran's actions that the US considers particularly outrageous: they are trying to create "strategic depth." That is: a barrier of friendly countries surrounding them, making attack by their enemies more difficult. Just as the USSR created satellite nations in Eastern Europe in the 1940's and 50's, Iran's actions of influence in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan can be understood in the same context. It then follows that enticing Iran to stop some of these more egregious actions requires us to address Iran's underlying security concerns.

Doing this, she claims, requires more than just limited diplomatic engagement on easy subjects we can agree on, it would require, in her words, a "comprehensive strategic framework" for dealing with the country before real talks can be held. As a former diplomat who worked with Iran in Afghanistan, she claims this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks of the US.

She does a good job debunking a lot of ideas about dealing with Iran, particularly those held by the previous administration.

Think Again: Talking With Iran

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