Flynt Leverett previously served as Senior Director for Middle East Affairs on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council and is now the Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Initiative at the New America Foundation.
At 2 pm today, he will be offering this testimony, “All or Nothing: The Case for a US-Iranian ‘Grand Bargain’” at a hearing before the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.
As usual, Leverett is mesmerizing in his sober, serious, analytical take on what needs to be done with Iran and how to correct our course.
From his intro that advocates abandoning incrementalism, with which I fully concur:
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Bush Administration’s refusal to pursue comprehensive, strategic engagement with the Islamic Republic of Iran is profoundly misguided, and is imposing real costs on American interests in the Middle East and the war on terror. In recent years, a growing body of politicians, distinguished foreign policy hands, and eminent persons’ groups — including a Council on Foreign Relations Task Force and the Iraq Study Group — has advocated more sustained U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran.
In almost all instances, recommendations for diplomatic engagement with Iran take an incremental approach. In this approach, the United States would identify particular areas where American and Iranian interests presumably overlap — e.g., post-conflict stabilization in Iraq or counter-narcotics initiatives in Afghanistan — and engage Tehran on those specific issues. Assuming that Washington and Tehran were able to cooperate productively on those issues, establishing a minimum level of “confidence”, the range of issues under discussion could be gradually expanded.
This kind of incremental approach seems prudent and relatively uncontroversial — except to the strategically autistic opponents of any engagement with Iran. Unfortunately, incrementalism will not work to produce sustained improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations. Advocates of incrementalism ignore an almost 20-year history of issue-specific engagement between the United States and the Islamic Republic: regarding Lebanon, Bosnia, and Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. In each case, as my wife and former NSC colleague Hillary Mann documents in her testimony, it has been the United States which declined to expand tactical cooperation on specific issues to explore possibilities for a broad-based strategic opening between our two countries.
Today, the United States is pursuing extremely tentative issue-specific engagement with Iran regarding Iraq. The Bush Administration has also indicated a highly conditional willingness to engage in multilateral talks with Tehran over Iranian nuclear activities.
However, given the record of U.S.-Iranian tactical engagement since the late 1980s, at this point Iran is unlikely to offer significant cooperation to the United States — whether with regard to Iraq or on the nuclear issue — except as part of a broader rapprochement with Washington that addresses Tehran’s core concerns. This would require the United States to be willing, as part of an overall settlement, to extend a security guarantee to Iran — effectively, an American commitment not to use force to change the borders or form of government of the Islamic Republic — and to bolster such a contingent commitment with the prospect of lifting U.S. unilateral sanctions and normalizing bilateral relations.
The rest is here.
— Steve Clemons