Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Right Way to Engage Iran?

The Right Way to Engage Iran

By Michael McFaul and Abbas MilaniSaturday, December 29, 2007; Page A19

As the year draws to a close, it's important to note that the U.S. debate on Iran is stalled, trapped between "regime changers" vs. "arms controllers," "hawks" vs. "doves," and "idealists" vs. "realists." The National Intelligence Estimate released this month offers an opportunity to escape this straitjacketed debate by embracing a new strategy that would pursue both the short-term goal of arms control and the long-term goal of democracy in Iran.

The NIE's "key judgment" that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program has thrust the arms controllers onto center stage. Because the nuclear threat is no longer immediate, the arms controllers insist that the time is ripe for the United States to engage in direct diplomacy with Tehran as a way to change the regime's behavior, but not the regime itself -- specifically, to persuade the mullahs to suspend their nuclear enrichment program.

Those who profess to back regime change claim that the NIE changes nothing and that the United States should continue to use coercive power, potentially including military strikes, to counter Tehran.

Both sides have part of the strategy right, but on its own neither offers a long-term vision for dealing with Iran.

It is folly to assume that advocates of military strikes are in the same camp as those who advocate regime change. There is no better way to prolong the life of the autocratic regime in Tehran, to strengthen increasingly weakened radicals such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, than bombing Iran. Thankfully, the NIE has made military strikes less likely...more

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