Some profound wisdom on Iran from former Clinton foreign policy advisor, Flynt Leverett (co-written with Hillary Mann Leverett), who is critical of the Obama administration approach toward Iran:
President Obama…should not be excused for [his] failure to learn the lessons of recent history in the Middle East — that the prospect of strategic cooperation with Israel is profoundly unpopular with Arab publics and that even moderate Arab regimes cannot sustain such cooperation. The notion of an Israeli-moderate Arab coalition united to contain Iran is not only delusional, it would leave the Palestinian and Syrian-Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict unresolved and prospects for their resolution in free fall. These tracks cannot be resolved without meaningful American interaction with Iran and its regional allies, Hamas and Hezbollah.
…What is hard about the Iran problem is not periodic inflammatory statements from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or episodes like Ms. Saberi’s detention. What is really hard is that getting America’s Iran policy “right” would require a president to take positions that some allies and domestic constituencies won’t like.
To fix our Iran policy, the president would have to commit not to use force to change the borders or the form of government of the Islamic Republic. He would also have to accept that Iran will continue enriching uranium, and that the only realistic potential resolution to the nuclear issue would leave Iran in effect like Japan — a nation with an increasingly sophisticated nuclear fuel-cycle program that is carefully safeguarded to manage proliferation risks. Additionally, the president would have to accept that Iran’s relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah will continue, and be willing to work with Tehran to integrate these groups into lasting settlements of the Middle East’s core political conflicts.
It was not easy for President Richard Nixon to discard a quarter-century of failed policy toward the People’s Republic of China and to reorient America’s posture toward Beijing in ways that have served America’s interests extremely well for more than 30 years. That took strategic vision, political ruthlessness and personal determination. We hope that President Obama — contrary to his record so far — will soon begin to demonstrate those same qualities in forging a new approach toward Iran.
This speaks to my extreme discomfort with Obama’s “agreement” with Netanyahu, during their White House meeting, that Iran should be given a brief interval to disarm, after which draconian sanctions should be invoked. This too is the approach advocated by Dennis Ross, who comes in for his share of justified knocks in the Leverett article. What is clear from the latter is that neither Ross nor Obama really have a clue how to “reach” the Iranians. They, or at least Obama, may have good intentions; but such good intentions minus conviction and leadership will lead us into a heap of trouble. And listening to a word Bibi has to say on this subject will bring double trouble. He doesn’t even bring good intentions to the table.
H/t to Helena Cobban.