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Bringing Iran Around

We in the West believe that Iran is building a nuclear bomb capability and this is bad. So France, Germany and Britain have been negotiating with Iran to prevent this. After some coaxing, U.S. has joined the Europeans, offering sticks to complement their carrots. It’s not working, I think, because Iran wants a few carrots from the U.S. Why not offer Iran carrots? Carrots, more than sticks, will bring Iran around.

When recent negotiations seemed to come up empty, belligerent George W. Bush said:

"As I say, all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any president and you know, we've used force in the recent past to secure our country."

Does Bush really believe such bullying remarks will bring the Iranians to the table? His puerile cowboy rhetoric is what brought us to this impasse in the first place. The day he spoke of the "axis of evil" he put 3 countries - Iraq, N. Korea and Iran - on notice, and naturally they began planning their defense. When Bush attacked Iraq, the other two were sure they were next and scurried about to prevent this. North Korea claimed it had nuclear bombs and now we are talking with them. Iran is doing the same thing.

It's time to throw away the sticks. As a matter of fact we do not have many sticks to use even if we wanted to. We can bring the issue to the Security Council, but Russia and China will not be on our side. We can threaten economic sanctions and they will remain just that: a threat. We can, as Bush already did, threaten military action. If Iran calls our bluff, this will prove to the world that we are a paper tiger:

  • We have no troops for the attack because we are bogged down in Iraq
  • We will have less of a "coalition" than we had for Iraq
  • Iranians are already present as a "fifth column" in Iraq
I don't know why we worry so much about an Iranian bomb. Israel has a bomb and its biggest enemy, Iran, may have an atomic bomb in 10 years (according to recent estimates). U.S. and the Soviet Union, mortal foes, both had the bomb and did not use it. Big enemies India and Pakistan each developed the bomb and now they are afraid to use it. The same will happen to Israel and Iran: each will be afraid to use the bomb because of the awfully deadly reprisals that are sure to befall the attacker.

Forget about sticks. Sticks are not very useful. Carrots will help us more. The Europeans, who have been beating each other with sticks for centuries, have discovered that carrots are better. They are negotiating with Iran. America should join the negotiations with carrots of its own. Many diplomats believe that Iran wants more than anything better relations with America. So, let's offer Iran some carrots:

  • Formal diplomatic relations with U.S. - in exchange for ridding itself of anti-American and anti-Israel actions
  • Economic development aid - this will help reduce unemployment, which is heavy in Iran
  • Trade deals with U.S and with Israel - We offer deals with China. Why not with Iran?
Although Iran has had a revolution and kicked Americans out and called America the "satan," most Iranians like Americans. Offer them carrots and they will love us. To paraphrase an old saying, you can catch more Iranians with carrots than with sticks.

Condoleezza Rice seems to have softened Bush's approach to foreign policy somewhat. I hope she can go further and make Bush bring some carrots to the table. Political, diplomatic and economic carrots will bring Iran around.

Posted by Paul Siegel at August 17, 2005 5:52 PM