Analysis: Talking to Tehran
Council on Foreign Relations
December 17, 2008
Author: Greg Bruno
Obama's post-election interviews (NBC) make clear that after eight years of avoiding direct diplomacy, the United States is ready to talk with Iran's ruling mullahs. But whether Iran will listen to what Washington is pitching is another matter. Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argues that "successful engagement with Iran will require a direct channel of communication" with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, no small task given the Iranian regime's historic resentment of American policies. Yet as George Mason University scholar Jack Goldstone writes in a Dar al-Hayat, "Obama must not only signal his willingness to talk, but also a willingness to change U.S. policies." There is no shortage of opinion on what those policies should be.
CFR's Ray Takeyh, with Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution, argues that Washington must "launch a comprehensive diplomatic initiative" that delinks the nuclear question (PDF) from the broader Iran policy playbook. Bilateral talks on Persian Gulf security, for instance, can proceed without uranium enrichment on the table, they suggest. Joshua Muravchik of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, meanwhile, places the onus on Iran's leaders (Daily Star). Muravchik argues Tehran must relinquish "its ambitions for regional dominance and global revolution" before reconciliation is possible.
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