The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

40 OCTOBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL expect Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to welcome a rapprochement with Washington. But the resumption of Sino- American relations in 1972 shows that such breakthroughs are possible if carefully prepared. Soothing Iran’s Neighbors Any reassessment of U.S. interests in the region should also recognize that U.S. partners like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have had a hand—directly and indirectly—in supporting adversaries over the last two decades who kill U.S. soldiers and murder U.S. citizens. Covert discus- sions with Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey (Iran’s chief regional rivals) will be necessary to induce their governments to accom- modate a stronger security role for Iran in the region. As part of those talks, it may be possible to reach tacit understandings concern- ing subregional spheres of influence (e.g., Yemen within Saudi Arabia’s; southern Lebanon within Israel’s; Iraq within Iran’s; and Syria within Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey’s). Just as Tehran can be persuaded that it does not need nuclear weapons to be secure, these regional actors could be convinced that the economic and demographic forces within Iran make its growing influence inevitable; and that, therefore, the most prudent course of action is one in which Iran is encouraged to dovetail its policies more closely with the world’s. However much we and our allies may desire an isolated, non-nuclear and weak Iran, a JCPOA-compliant Iran will still be nuclear-capable and will also have a stronger, more diverse and resilient econ- omy. The question will be whether Iran’s neighbors want such a state to be nuclear-armed, as well. In that sense, a stronger but cooperative Iran poses less of a security threat to them than the current rogue state. It will be essential to ensure P5+1 unity and resolve prior to embarking on this course of action. Policymakers should also bear in mind that Iranian economic ties to the rest of the world will continue to grow over the duration of the JCPOA. Should Tehran leave the agreement, it would sacrifice much-needed economic growth—and its attendant, domestically stabilizing influence. (This incentive, it should be noted, will still be power- ful even after the “snapback” deadline for reimposing interna- tional sanctions expires.) The JCPOA Follow-on Agreement The goal for the P5+1 should be the pursuit of a 10-year, fol- low-on “JCPOA-lite.” Lasting until 2035, this successor agreement would combine ongoing, long-term international monitoring and restraints on weaponization with a phase-out of research and centrifuge restrictions. Much of this approach is already consistent with Iran’s commitments under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol. Thus, it should not draw additional fire from hard-liners in Iran while maintaining, if not enhancing, a reasonable level of nonproliferation protections. By 2035, Tehran should be economically and conventionally strong enough to assure its own security without a nuclear arsenal. Increasing Iran’s economic linkages and interdependency with the world could hasten its pace toward more responsible policies. Toward that end, the United States and the rest of the P5+1 should consider offering low-cost (to us) but highly valuable (to Iran) technical assistance on alternative energy development, financial market governance and development, and small business assistance programs. Such programs would further diversify and strengthen Iran’s economy, and empower its citizenry. To achieve success, sequencing will be critical. First, we must ensure P5+1 unity in the approach. This will facilitate current JCPOA enforcement and set the stage for a follow-on agreement. Second, covert outreach to Iran on recognition and an enhanced regional role will provide themwith direction and, at the same time, allow us to approach our regional allies with more assur- ances. Third, with recognition established, we can continue to incentivize Iran’s move toward economic growth and legitimate regional influence by providing economic programming assis- tance, preferably in tandemwith our P5+1 partners. Will this be a daunting diplomatic challenge? Absolutely. But we have surmounted higher diplomatic obstacles in the past. Should we plan for only the most pessimistic range of scenarios? Absolutely not. The sudden, and largely unexpected, fall of the Soviet Union left U.S. policymakers struggling to cobble together a Russia strategy on the fly. Had such an optimistic scenario been planned for, the long-term results could have been much better. With Iran in 2025, we should be prepared for the best, the worst, and everything in between. n Covert discussions with Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey (Iran’s chief regional rivals) will be necessary to induce their governments to accommodate a stronger security role for Iran in the region.