"Ratcheting" is not a policy
Posted by Kelsey Hartigan
In a stunning preview of what’s to come during the 112th Congress, six U.S. senators sent a letter to President Obama today, asserting that they intend to “continue ratcheting up” the pressure on Iran and that they will “strongly oppose any proposal for a diplomatic endgame in which Iran is permitted to continue [enrichment or reprocessing activities] in any form.”
The letter reads like a love letter to sanctions, but ends with a pledge to “do all that is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Subtle.
I’m sure Bill Burns and team really appreciated the timing here. The U.S. delegation probably hadn’t event finished their duck, and already, U.S. senators had essentially declared engagement dead on arrival.
The dual track approach is intended to both pressure and engage Iran. This letter demonstrates contempt for engagement—and it is indicative of what will surely be a growing trend during the 112th Congress.
The Stimson and USIP Iran report that was released last month focuses on strategic engagement, that is, a policy that is based on both coercion and inducement. Sanctions alone will not convince Iran to forgo its nuclear program. Iran needs to believe that there is something in it for them. Opposing an endgame where Iran is permitted to enrich uranium will only make negotiations more difficult and will only strengthen anti-American sentiment among Iranian ultra hardliners—the same people who argue that Iran will only be able to stand up to America once it has nuclear weapons. “Ratcheting” is not a policy; and it is certainly no way to convince Iran to cooperate on the nuclear issue.
Key points from the Stimson and USIP report are below:
The US should sustain efforts to increase the economic, strategic and political costs that Iran will pay for not responding seriously and consistently to the US and its allies’ proposals to resolve the nuclear issue. Such efforts will not succeed without a reinvigoration of the engagement track, one that presents Tehran with a compelling test of its ultimate intentions. Thus, in addition to sanctions, US policy makers should devise a matching package of robust incentives that gives Iranian leaders compelling reasons to cooperate. US diplomats and national leaders must communicate to Iran a comprehensive picture of what Tehran has to gain from cooperation with the US and its allies.
Washington must clearly signal its readiness to accept Iran’s enrichment rights, providing that Tehran negotiates verifiable limits on the degree of enrichment and on the volume of enriched fuel stored in Iran. Given the secretive history of Iran’s nuclear program, the US and its allies also are entitled to demand clarification of the questions raised by the IAEA, a complete declaration by Iran of its nuclear activities, including any weapons related activities, an audit of that declaration by the IAEA, and Iran’s implementation of the Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.
The US should support existing ideas for internationalizing global fuel services, replacing nationally-controlled enrichment and reprocessing facilities with multinational public/ private consortia. Although such ideas face numerous obstacles, diplomatic initiatives along these lines should be considered, perhaps in the context of the Nuclear Security Summit.
Ultimately, the US should seek the end of Iranian enrichment, no matter how tightly
controlled, through the internationalization of all nuclear fuel services, as suggested [above.]
It should go without saying, but obviously all of this is shot to hell if military action is involved. As the report also concludes, "An attack on Iran by either the US or Israel would cement Tehran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons and likely ensure the success of efforts by Iran’s ultra hardliners to consolidate power, thus postponing hopes for political reform even further and ensuring continuing tensions and conflicts in the Middle East."