A New Red Line For Iran
The Washington Post / Graham Allison
01-Jun-2009 (one comment)

 The central policy question becomes: What combination of arrangements, inside and outside Iran, has the best chance of persuading it to stop short of a nuclear bomb? The best hope for defining a meaningful red line is to enshrine the Iranian supreme leader's affirmations that Iran will never acquire nuclear weapons in a solemn international agreement that commits Russia and China to join the United States in specific, devastating penalties for violation of that pledge.

recommended by Fred



Mideast Nuclear Crisis: Balanced Accommodation

by William deB. Mills (not verified) on

More than preventing the "birth" of the next nuclear-weapons state (as Allison put it), Obama's challenge is two-fold: 1)immediately, to prevent the Israeli right wing from starting a war and, 2) over a longer term, to integrate Iran into Mideast affairs. To accomplish this, a balanced approach, which the U.S. has never consistently tried with Iran, has the best chance of success.

Incentives--positive paired with negative--should be offered on multiple levels simultaneously, including the principle of common standards for all countries, the lesser principle of regional parity, and bilateral discussions of a practical deal right now.

• Common standards: The principle of common standards for all should be enunciated as the ultimate goal, while admitting honestly that we really have no idea how to attain that goal.
• Regional Parity: The lesser principle of regional parity should be enunciated as a more proximate goal, while again admitting honestly we don’t even know how to attain that goal.
• Bilateral Negotiations: In the context of advocacy of the principle of common standards and the launching of a diplomatic initiative to define common nuclear standards for Iran, Pakistan, and Israel, bilateral talks between the U.S. and Iran to reach a broad accommodation would have a good chance of succeeding. Each side has much to gain from compromising. Washington wants greater transparency and help with Afghanistan. Tehran should see the benefit of a lessened threat to its security, involvement in regional diplomacy, access to technology, and an end to anti-Iranian terrorism. Both may agree that curbing the flow of illegal narcotics and curbing the appetite for power of the Taliban would be useful.

The regional parity approach, combining principle with bargaining even as it removes Iran from the hot seat, might prove to be particularly effective by offering Iran the opportunity to take high moral ground in regional diplomacy by accepting the concept of leading the region toward a non-nuclear future. We should specify that this regional approach means bringing Pakistan and Israel closer to the Iranian position. This is not easy; at present, it seems utterly unworkable. But enunciation of the principle would ease open the door to Iranian compromise. The “specific, devastating penalties” envisioned by Allison should be defined in reference not just to Iran but to Israel and Pakistan, as well, so we might want to go easy on the “devastating” part.

Specifics can be tinkered with endlessly. One starting point might be rules governing the positioning of nuclear-capable submarines. Another might be steps toward transparency.

The technical details are less important than the political decision that each new rule would apply equally to Pakistan, Israel, and Iran. Incentives need not be “devastating” but should come in pairs: a positive incentive and a negative incentive. Even for the world community to agree on verbal condemnation of all countries in the region that violate some set of rules would dramatically change the atmosphere from anti-Iranian discrimination to a principled effort to move the whole region toward a common goal.