Foreign Service Journal - June 2013 - page 17

JUNE 2013
Isolation Is Not a Good
Basis for Decision-Making
Those who are dealing with the
nuclear issue would do well to consider
these lessons from the past. In the final
analysis, over three decades, America
has not tried to reverse Iran’s revolution.
President Obama has shown reluctance
to pursue more overseas adventures. But
he has also surprised observers by his
boldness and determination when chal-
lenged by clear and present dangers to
the United States and to world stability.
Iran’s leaders underestimate him at their
Simply to assume that others will act
in a given situation as you would your-
self is akin to what psychologists call
“transference.” And in certain circum-
stances, this can be very dangerous. To
guard against it, American policymakers
try to learn as much as they can about
how differently Iranian leaders may
process information. But it is even more
important for Iran’s leaders to study
how American and Israeli leaders might
Making decisions based on misinter-
pretation of the outside world’s leaders,
values and reactions doomed Saddam
Hussein—who had little experience of
the world beyond Iraq and would not
believe unwelcome reports his own
people brought him. Today, Iran’s top
rulers are as isolated as he was. Discount-
ing unwelcome warnings of how others
might react could bring an end to Iran’s
regime, as well.
Still, there is a good deal waiting to be
made. For Iran, such an agreement will
actually improve on the agreement that
ended the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis by
removing all sanctions—a concession
not offered to Havana. This can then be
presented to the Iranian people as their
leaders’ sacrifice (or achievement) to end
their suffering.
How governance in Iran develops
after that will be for the Iranians them-
selves to decide. And those in power in
Tehran are unlikely to be seriously both-
ered in their internal governance as long
as they do not threaten others.
Finally, a word about process. With
time running out, it would be better to
aim higher than the routine step-by-step
process of the past. As the Israeli-Pales-
tinian and North Korean negotiations
demonstrate, parties that do not trust
each other often lose their enthusiasm
for reaching the final goal once the lever-
age that has brought them to negotiate
in the first place is relaxed. The Dayton
agreement that ended the war in the for-
mer Yugoslavia, or the rapid, high-level
negotiations with Muammar Qadhafi
that terminated Libya’s quest for nuclear
weapons, are better models to emulate.
By the same token, the negotiations
with Iran need to rise quickly to an
appropriately high level. Final agree-
ments can be prepared, but they can only
be decided after face-to-face meetings of
the key policymakers. In the case of Iran,
it is inconceivable that the final arbiter,
Ayatollah Khamenei, would expose
himself personally to direct negotia-
tions. Nor does President Obama need to
But the new president of Iran, who
is elected this month, can close the
deal with Secretary of State John Kerry
(joined, if necessary for reasons of proto-
col and Persian pride, by Vice President
Joe Biden). Whatever faction he comes
from, that leader and his supporters,
explicitly backed by the supreme guide,
must rise above factional divisions and
commit the Iranian state to a binding
agreement. Discussion of restoring U.S.-
Iran diplomatic relations might then
1...,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16 18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,...116
Powered by FlippingBook