The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2017 39 Let’s Make a Deal Offered the right incentives, Iran could play a significant role as a co-guarantor of regional security without resorting to nuclear weapons. To make that outcome more likely, we should deploy a robust array of diplomatic and economic tools in the service of two objectives: reducing the likelihood of Iran “going nuclear” after 2025, while simultaneously encouraging Iran to more responsibly assist in promoting regional stability for at least a five-year period. This approach to statecraft hinges on four assumptions: Iran will continue to consistently adhere to JCPOA; Tehran’s economic linkages with the world will continue to grow stronger; Iran’s desire for a regional security role more commensurate with its historical influence is what underlies its quest for nuclear weapons and its support for Hezbollah; and Iran’s governance systems will either remain static or, although this is less likely, trend toward incorpo- rating more democratic characteristics. Admittedly, hard-liners in Iran’s governing institutions, including the Guardian Council, will likely main- tain their grip on power. But the domestic pressures of an aging, wealthier and more economically diverse society could eventually drive the Iranian leader- ship to include more moderate voices. Iran’s demographics may also serve as a forward indicator for more inclusive governance; the country is rapidly aging, with a median age of 20.8 in 2000 that rose to 27.1 in 2010 and is projected to be 35.5 by 2025, according to a 2013 United Nations report. In any case, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reportedly in poor health, the potential exists for a change in direction. The overall strategic concept is to create the space and condi- tions for Iran to join the pantheon of global leadership, becoming a positive force for regional balance. Broad and sustained diplo- macy, underpinned by economic incentives, will have primacy in this effort. Specifically, a coherent diplomatic approach among the P5+1 (shorthand for the United Nations Security Council’s five per- manent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—plus Germany) will maintain JCPOA-like continuity efforts on the nonproliferation front. At the same time, a much steeper challenge must also be contemplated: namely, laying the groundwork for persuading key regional actors of the merits of an approach that recognizes the inevitability of Iran’s relative economic and conventional force superiority. Although this will be anathema to some allies, the alternatives—continu- ation of current patterns of instability and proxy wars, a more isolated and unpredictable, nuclear-armed Iran—are not com- pelling options in the long run. With Iran directly, the diplomatic effort must center on per- suading Tehran that it will gain more security and regional clout through economic strength and international legitimacy than by acting as a rogue, isolated, nuclear power. Playing to Tehran’s Own Strengths The advantage of this approach is that it plays into Iran’s own motivations and inherent strengths. Iran’s historical, economic and demographic characteristics position it to be a global and regional leader. All that stands between it and attaining that position is its recent history of supporting terrorism and nuclear weapons development. There is reason to believe that Tehran can be con- vinced that the conditions which motivated its unfor- tunate policies have largely vanished, and that better approaches exist to promote both external and internal security. The P5+1 can pro- vide resources and tools to help accelerate its shift to a better, alternate approach to security once the diplomatic conditions are set. A combination of direct, sequential, multilateral, overt and covert approaches—all within a framework of shaping, accommodating, persuading and induc- ing Iran and other relevant actors—will guide the selection and use of each instrument of power in this effort. The centerpiece of the diplomatic effort would be the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran, at our initiative and prior to 2025. A JCPOA-compliant Iran merits this direct approach, and re-establishing a diplomatic presence in Tehran would greatly facilitate progress on nonproliferation and regional security issues. As with the Obama administration’s overtures to Havana in 2014, this effort will require a series of covert negotiations with Iran, perhaps conducted via an intermediary like Germany, prior to any public announcement. At the moment, U.S. domestic support for such a move certainly does not exist. Similarly, it may be presumptuous to Offered the right incentives, Iran could play a significant role as a co-guarantor of regional security without resorting to nuclear weapons.