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March 20, 2009

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"Similarly, real progress in terms of negotiations with Iran will require the United States government to acknowledge that, yes, other nations (including Iran) have legitimate interests - even if there are viable moral objections to how those interests manifest (as there are, alas, with respect to our own foreign policy actions)."

Just to throw some fighting words into the discussion, this, and the general thrust of your remarks, bring to mind two words: Henry Kissinger.

:-)

Eric,

I like this post a lot. I think you've come up with a new way of framing the way people tend to now think of American exceptionalism, namely as an attitude towards the permissibility of coercion. As far as Iran goes, I think this message only really works if you think of it as presupposing a disavowal of the American position on Iraq and preemptory war. Of course, Iranians are free to make up their own minds as to whether Obama differs from Bush, but you can, with just a little squinting, imagine Obama delivering the same address to the United States itself.

Obama's address to Iran was grossly hypocritical. He said:

"The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create." (my emphasis)

This from the president of a country that has invaded more countries in the past 30 years than Iran has in the past 300! As Ara points out, it's easy enough to aim the same statement at the U.S., with much greater justification.

And don't forget that less than two weeks ago, Obama continued the "National Emergency with Respect to Iran".

This kind of double-tongued nonsense is just more evidence that any "change" we get from Obama will be cosmetic. The Empire rolls on, and he won't stop killing foreigners in defense of the American way of life, for which, remember, he said we will not apologize.

do you think he's not making such a sharp break b/c he can't risk excessive capital in light of domestic battles to come? i get the sense that they're putting some of these more major changes on hold temporarily -- though obviously the symbolism of this is still a very welcome change

When I visited an aide in my Senator's office this summer for private reasons, I told him, that as far as I was concerned, the ONLY thing I was expecting from Barack Obama at this point was the capacity to exercize a good deal of subtlety in negotiating the INEVITABLE and already begun DECLINE of American empire in the world.
That the U.S., so used to its heady exceptionalism, would throw around its weight like a hippopotamus in a teeny tiny cage in the face of the already well emerged new political scene in the world.
I still hope that Obama can pull off U.S. decline gracefully...
And that he KNOWS somehow that this is his mission...

You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.

The picture of the President of arguably the most violent, bloodiest, most destructive, most aggressive, best armed, most war-like nation on the planet lecturing the peoiple of Iran--far more sinned against than sinning in any political calculus--on the necessity of 'responsibility' is fucking laughable...

publius: good question. But appointing Ross wasn't necessary to conserve political capital. I get that argument more with respect to letting Chas Freeman get sacked, but he could have not appointed Ross and suffered very little for it - if at all.

Just to throw some fighting words into the discussion, this, and the general thrust of your remarks, bring to mind two words: Henry Kissinger.

But we're already cutting deals ala Kissinger - look at all the despots in the the Middle East (and abroad) that we support.

But I'm calling for a more humble, less intrusive foreign policy than Kissinger. There's a big difference.

I posted this as a poll on another site, curious about reactions here.

What's the appropriate way for the U.S. to deal w/ Iran?

Poll Options

a) Say "Oh Iran, you were right all along" to resolve disagreements

b) Laissez-faire, interact w/ Iran as if they were Switzerland

c) Bargain w/ Iran, but begin w/ many substantive conciliatory moves

d) Bargain w/ Iran, but hold tangible conciliatory steps in reserve

e) Refuse to engage Iran, and continue to vocally disapprove of the regime and all its policies

f) Seek the overthrow of the Iranian government.

I'd vote somewhere between (c) and (d).

Options c) and d), a bargain, imply that the U.S. is asking for some form of behavior change from Tehran, in return for adjustments in our own policies.

What should Washington be asking for from Tehran? What seems to bother it now, that it could reasonably expect to see changed, for the right price?

And can such things be discussed without most commenters focusing on the lack of U.S. standing to make such requests in the first place?

---If the U.S. lacks "standing" to request any changes from Iran, then we are not talking about a bargain, we are talking about a) or b), reconciliation on Tehran's terms only, or a laissez-faire policy, neither of which really require any negotiation.


We should ask Iran to abstain from weaponizing nukes, and to cease funding armed proxies or at least seek to rein in their behavior.

We should offer in return security guarantees, economic incentives in terms of inclusion in certain pacts, and a real, honest effort to resolve the Israel/Palestine mess.

Now that's an endgame I can get behind. Would a good analogy be that an Iran that shifts in the desired direction, even if it remains an illiberal theocratic state, can have cooperation with the US on the level that say, China does?

Then we get to the issue of how we get there. I'd be pretty comfortable starting off with some unilateral upfront guarantees like "we do not plan to overthrow your regime, support armed insurgent groups that fight you, or otherwise sneak about to pick winners and losers in your politics". I'd also pretty much be up for diplomatic meetings at pretty much any level (though generally higher meetings would be more useful once progress is being made on some bilateral bargaining).

I'd also be into spelling out, a whole array of positive proposals to be delivered at the backend of negotiations (things like WTO membership, a Gulf process like the European CFE and CSCE----meaning that we can make the frequency and intensity of military deployments and port visits a negotiable item).

But I don't think I'd be into lifting economic sanctionson the front-end. I don't know if the sanctions are layered enough that you can lift "half" of them and have the other "half" remaining as enough incentive for Iran to move its positions at all.

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