Nikolas K. Gvosdev: Iran and a Democratic Foreign Policy


Two separate, unrelated items — both concerning issues that I know Steve will continue to cover upon his return to active blogging…
The first concerns Iran. (See latest reporting from Reuters…)
I always felt that the EU-3 process had a fatal flaw because in the end, the Europeans had the task of trying to convince two parties — Iran and the United States — that they could produce a workable arrangement acceptable to both sides but without the authority to produce concessions. The EU could not give the Iranians the security guarantees they wanted nor guarantee that the US would lift economic sanctions that would allow pipeline projects from Central Asia to go forward (let’s face it, the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline doesn’t make economic sense to bring Caspian oil to market — it only is feasible as long as Iran remains closed as an export route). Europe was less interested in some of the thorniest questions that bedevil the Iran-US relationship, such as Iranian support for Hizballah and Hamas — and wanted to focus largely on the nuclear question without any linkage to other issues.
The real question now is whether the administration will be able to jointly work with the Europeans — and reach out to the Russians and Chinese — to forge a common position on Iran’s nuclear program. I think that such efforts will stumble because while the EU and Russia agree that they don’t want a nuclear-armed Iran, they are less interested in “regime change” in Tehran and will not accept the proposition that to prevent the former you have to endorse the latter. In turn, to gain European, Russian and Chinese support, would the administration risk angering its domestic constituencies by making the same bargain that the president’s father made vis-a-vis Iraq in 1991 — international support for US action in return for a pledge not to depose the existing government?
The second, unrelated matter — Democrats and national security. Maria Wells, in the comments to my post of August 5, called attention to Wes Clark’s plan for Iraq (hosted at WesPAC, which also proclaims its intent to help raise funds to support Democratic candidates). WesPAC is having a fundraising dinner in Washington this week. It will be interesting to see whether or not a national security interest group develops within the Democratic Party beyond Washington think-tankers — one prepared to invest time, effort and money to support candidates. For those who haven’t read it, we published in the Summer issue of The National Interest an interesting essay by Kurt Campbell and Michael O’Hanlon, “The Democrat Armed” (a “free” copy is available at the Brookings site.)
I hope that Steve will offer some of his opinions on what the guests have been saying this past week as he returns to his perch.
Nikolas Gvosdev