A speech by former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher titled "Balanced Policy with Iran: Between Sanctions and Trade" delivered at the "Iran in Transition" conference organized by the Petro-Hunt Corporation in Dallas in May 1996. Mosbacher served in the Bush Administration.
There are no politicians speaking [at this conference] who have been or hope to be elected because discussions of Iran and our relations have been cliffhangers or terminators for politicians. If you don't believe me, ask Jimmy Carter or ask Ronald Reagan in his second term, or ask George Bush, who on the weekend before the '92 election was falsely and belatedly accused of further involvement in Irangate.
Whether it proves to be a problem for this president remains to be seen. His policy of sanctions and containment could well entrap him. It is true that Iran has been a difficult bully from the taking of hostages to terrorism to its abuse of human rights. But much of its most egregious behavior was 15 years ago.
The pros and cons of sanctions or embargoes in Iran's case can be argued ad nauseam, but what is clear is that embargoes that are unilateral always fail. They only work if they are multi-national. Unilateral embargoes by only one nation, even the U.S., work about as well as unilateral disarmament.
We should have learned by now from our past mistakes, such as the grain embargo of the USSR under Carter and the oil and gas pipeline embargo during the Reagan years. The results were the same in both cases -- they went to alternative sources, especially the industrialized democracies. U.S. business lost and our trade partners took advantage of this by selling more grain, pipeline equipment and other items as well as opportunities for investment.
Countries with which we compete like Germany, France or Japan are laughing all the way to the bank.
As the biggest country in the Persian Gulf with 55 million people, Iran cannot be ignored. Its president, Rafsanjani, is a politician and a key player in the ruling elite, who appears somewhat pragmatic but hesitant in his approach to the West.
Nevertheless, with the spiritual leader Khamenei and the other leaders still railing against the U.S., chances for improved relations look dim. However, even though Iran has been demonizing us, we are the most powerful nation in the world and must walk the difficult high road for both keeping the pressure on Iran and showing a willingness to have an authorized dialogue at any time.
We must not retaliate to their intemperate behavior with the same techniques of demonizing them. Trying to deal with them, of course, is like porcupines making love -- proceed carefully!
Hopefully the more moderate, less anti-Western views will prevail, and we can return to the point where we at least have an open an productive dialogue. At the end of the day, we must determine whether the U.S. policy toward Iran is to be more rhetorical than effective.