Democrats & Liberals Archives

A Grand Bargain with Iran

I said yesterday that we need to talk to Iran. Talk for what purpose? I do not think limited talks are what we want; they will change nothing. Iran is such a big player in the Middle East that U.S. and Iran must negotiate their differences on many levels in order to make the Middle East a vibrant part of the world community. Iran today presents a problem. With proper diplomacy we can convert the problem to an opportunity to bring peace to the region. We must, over the next few years, negotiate a Grand Bargain with Iran.

Fighting with Iran is stupid. Deep down, Iranians and Americans are tired of the back-and-forth insults between the two countries. Iran calls U.S. "Satan" and America places Iran on an "axis of evil." It's time to forget the insults and talk. We have an opportunity now to change our relationship from confrontation to cooperation. Instead of throwing brickbats at each other why can't we sit down and maturely discuss our differences.

Instead of merely talking about ameliorating a current problem - such as chaos in Iraq or Iranian nukes - why can't we prepare for a long discussion whose object would be to arrive at a Grand Bargain. Here are 3 quid-pro-quos I would offer for a Grand Bargain:

  • IRAN FORGOES NUKES & U.S DROPS IRAN FROM "AXIS OF EVIL" - One reason Iran seeks nuclear weapons is that it wants to protect itself from American wrath. Publicly remove Iran from the "axis of evil." Of course, I don't know if this action would induce Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program. It would, at the very least, though, calm the atmosphere down tremendously. We'd then be ready for more talks

  • IRAN HELPS ACHIEVE IRAQI PEACE & U.S. RECOGNIZES IRAN AS PRIMARY MIDDLE EAST POWER - We focus too much on Iraqi Shi-ites being influenced by Iranian clerics and we think this is bad. If we are smart we can make this a good thing. Iran and Iraq are both majority Shi-ite countries. Why should they not be friends? The Kurds and the Sunnis in Iraq may be worried about this, but not if they are assured protection

  • IRAN HELPS ACHIEVE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE & U.S. OFFERS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AID - I can hear the snickers. Yes, Iran supports Hezbollah, a Shi-ite terrorist group, and Hamas, a Sunni terrorist group. Furthermore, the new president of Iran proclaimed that Iran would get rid of the entire country of Israel. But I believe we can make such a deal. I don't believe Iran is that concerned with the Palestinians, who are Sunnis; it makes these rash statements to gain regional power. If they could gain power another way - one we offer - they would grab it. If they could help broker a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, they would be on top of the Middle East power pole. If U.S. could achieve this we would be happy to help Iran economically
These are my thoughts. You probably can add to the negotiating mix. The point, however, is that we should embark upon the negotiation of a Grand Bargain with Iran that would greatly reduce violence and terrorism and bring about peace and prosperity to the Middle East and here at home.

Posted by Paul Siegel at March 22, 2006 7:27 PM
Comment #135357

Paul, I thought Israel and trans jordanian palestine, now called the hashemite kingdom of jordan, were already at peace. That is where most palestinians live. The west bank and gaza will never amount to much of a country.

We supported the Shah for decades because we considered Iran so vital in the cold war. He was so reviled by his own people, that we could not afford to continue to give him direct military aid. That was when his military budget was added to the price of oil, supposedly at the suggestion of our state department.

Something happened in the late 1980s, after Iran Contra. Iraq got the idea that they could be the predominant power in the region, if only they controlled Kuwait. Some people claim that Saddam Hussein might have got this idea from our representatives, and that he jumped the gun with his invasion.

The same problem exists now with Iraq, as under Saddam Hussein. Basra is an inland port, and an alternative is needed to get their oil to market, like a pipeline through Syria to the mediterranean, when they are not on friendly terms with their other neighbors.

Axis of Evil is probably a term invented by some speechwriter to attempt to put GWBush on the same level as Ronald Reagan, with his evil empire rhetoric. There is no Gorbachov in this scenario with Iran. There is not even a Reagan on our side. Both of those would be requried to improve relations.

Secret diplomacy in this region always comes back to bite us on the ass. We will be better of if many more nations are involved in any negotiations.

Posted by: ohrealy at March 22, 2006 8:45 PM
Comment #135363

Paul; I agree in theory with your premise. I’m not sure how it could be made to work with our present administration. Bush has made enemies throughout the world with his rhetoric and Iran is a good example.However, on the other hand I believe it can be possible to reach out to middle eastern countries, including Iran and begin a conversation instead of a confrontation.
If we ignore the fact that Iran wants a nuclear weapon as we have ignored the fact that India has never signed onto the Anti-nuclear proliferation treaty, then maybe we can make some progress toward a real peace in the area.
Of course, we must first resolve our conflict in Iraq and move our troops out so the Iraqi people can reestablish their country without any more of our interference.
Once upon a time this country was looked upon as an ambassador of good will toward the rest of the world until WWll. After the war, we allowed Russia to dictate our foreign policy and we became a warrior nation with the majority of our spending going into arms instead of to our people.
Now, we need to begin a new strategy toward a peaceful world instead of a world constantly in conflict. If this, by some miracle, were to happen, more money, time and energy could be spent on renewable energy resources as well as providing aid and comfort to the poorer countries.

Posted by: jack p at March 22, 2006 9:12 PM
Comment #135369

Your suggestions seem idealistic for the most part. You are asking Iran to sacrifice much in return for little.

It’s not that I believe diplomatic talks don’t have their merit, it’s that if the solution were that simple it probably would have been solved by now.

Posted by: Zeek at March 22, 2006 9:25 PM
Comment #135372

I saw a privatized program of lending money to Afghanistan families to begin new businesses. So they could buy equipment like looms or trucks, etc. That seems like a fairly simple way to start improving relations. Get the rich people here to create lending programs for Iraq and move on from there perhaps to Iran?
Here’s the link:
Mercy Corps

Posted by: Squeaky at March 22, 2006 9:30 PM
Comment #135387

Zeek:”It’s not that I believe diplomatic talks don’t have their merit, it’s that if the solution were that simple it probably would have been solved by now”.

If it were not the case that this and most other U.S. administrations have had so much implicit investment in the profits of war, then I agree, it would have been tried (and likely solved) long ago.

Posted by: Shattered Mirror at March 22, 2006 10:38 PM
Comment #135403


Iran has always insisted that it will not consider renewing its relationship with the U.S. if without the unfreezing of its assets (I think around $10b). I think you should include this. Another positive move by the U.S. would be to allow Iran purchase passenger planes and parts - something that Iran needs badly and has been asking for for over two decades.

Posted by: RM at March 22, 2006 11:50 PM
Comment #135421


Your heart is in the right place but your argument is weak and naive. Here is why?

1. Iran forgoes nukes for US dropping axis of evil? That is hardly a fair trade. It’s like you offering $50 to donald trump for trump towers in NY. At the very least something like this would require the following:

Iran agrees to intrusive inspections (like the ones they had before which were the most intrusive of any IAEA member ever) and commits to in public and i nwriting to no nuclear weapons development. In return the US publicly and in writing guarantees no regime change, active opposition to any bills or laws aimed at limiting Iranian development (e.g. no 75 million dollars for “promoting democracy”, no ILSA, no unilateral emabrgoes on other countries, etc…). Furthermore, the US and the world need to recognize the Iranian right to nuclear power and more importantly nuclear KNOW HOW… At this point we are not telling them not to make weapons we are telling them you don’t have the right to learn new things (i.e. enrichment). I am sure if Bush could he would love to have prevented them from learning how to use fire so that they can’t “make weapons”… Both ideas are ridiculous and the US needs to drop the demands. Also we would need to allow sale of all modern weaponary to them (akin to what we give to the UAE, Saudis, and Israeli’s) so that they can have security thorugh conventional means and avoid the need to develop unconventional weapons. Finally, the other major powers (Britain, Germany, France, China, Russia) would need to sign on a defense pact to defend Iran in case some red neck president decides on pre-emptive war… All of this is the realistic minimum required to give the iranians enough feeling of security to remove the need for WMD. Of course at the end of the day it is all paper and we know how much respect our president has for agreements, conventions, and accords… But it would change the atmosphere tremendously…

2. I agree with your second point. The Iraninans are trying to do that right now but the problem is we have a few thousand troops based in Iraq. Our recognition of them as the primary middle east power would require us to leave their neighborhood while publicly acknowledging their help and efforts… Making it clear that the Iranians are boss now. I think once that happens the Sunni insurgency will realize the futility of their efforts.

3. How much aid are we talking about? A few billion a year of grants (not loans) could almost do the trick. However, the Iranians will (and justifiably so) insist on US backing for the plaestenians to an extent… The US’s one sided support of Israel is the main reason there is no peace. If we told the Israeli’s to shut up and pushed them to actually compromise a bit then peace could be achieved very rapidly…

As I said your heart is in the right place but you are naive to think simple lip service will solve anything. The US and the west needs to grow up and face the fact that the Iraninas are not willing to be bullied… If they want concessions from them the west needs to offer the Iranians REAL incentives.. Otherwise any talks are doomed to fail from the start just like the European talks a few months back…

Posted by: J. Bergsneider at March 23, 2006 2:13 AM
Comment #135459
…Making it clear that the Iranians are boss now. I think once that happens the Sunni insurgency will realize the futility of their efforts.

LOL! Or they’ll realize they’re facing certain — and US sanctioned — extermination and fight even harder.

Interresting article, Paul, and it might have been relevant if Khatami were still President of Iran, but Ahmadnejad will never go for it. That guys off the deep end.

Posted by: American Pundit at March 23, 2006 11:16 AM
Comment #135485

Okay, can someone please explain to me just why we are there poking our business in their business anyway? I do not get it, if you want no wmd, then the first step if for us to get rid of ours and spend our recourses on defense, others will see that we are not hypocrites and leave us alone and let the middle east fight their own war, like they have been doing for over 1500 years. But for some reason, we think we can solve this ongoing war in less then 10 years, that is good, I like that one. Let’s just stop being missionaries of the democratic society and fix the problems that we have here.

Posted by: Jason at March 23, 2006 1:28 PM
Comment #135488

i agree with jack.


Posted by: tree hugger at March 23, 2006 1:47 PM
Comment #135534


I agree that we need a grand bargain with Iran, but not as complicated as yours. The bargain should be that Iran does exactly as the U.S. says and in return, the U.S. doesn’t wipe Iran off the map.

Posted by: Duano at March 23, 2006 5:11 PM
Comment #135538


“The bargain should be that Iran does exactly as the U.S. says and in return, the U.S. doesn’t wipe Iran off the map.”

This sounds vaguely like Iran’s policy towards Israel which has everyone in a flap…

Posted by: Zeek at March 23, 2006 5:17 PM
Comment #135556

We all secretly wish to agree with you Jason, but I guess you can’t really ignore when a big group of fanatics has declared war on you… and then gone vying for the support of other countries.

However, I do hope the solution is NOT to go destroy the countries that they asked for support. We should simply offer them a better deal, starting from the bottom up, if we can.

:) Squeaky

Posted by: Squeaky at March 23, 2006 6:15 PM
Comment #135562


The difference is, Iran is not a superior power to Israel, and Israel is our ally. The U.S. is superior militarily, and in every other way, to the rest of the world. We have the right to set the agenda.

Posted by: Duano at March 23, 2006 6:33 PM
Comment #135599

Duano, let me see if I understand your logic:
might makes right

So, I guess it would be ok for me to go to your house and subjugate you to whatever I desire as long as I have greater firepower than you.

Do you see the problem with this logic?

Posted by: Zeek at March 23, 2006 9:56 PM
Comment #135721

Amen Zeke. You put my thoughts so eloquently into words. And you were nice about it to boot. I however, would have wrote something more along the lines of:

Naiveté has how many syllables?

Posted by: bombay at March 24, 2006 7:15 PM
Comment #135919

Let’s hope that the Grand Bargain will include a cessation of fomenting terrorism in the area on the part of Iran. I just heard a revised estimate of the time table for Iran to be refining nuclear material (3 years). Do you think we can appease them in that time or should we just consider Israel a collateral cost for the Grand Peace?

Apparently allowing Iran a free hand at sabataging our efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Palestinean issue is just part of the cost of doing business with our new Grand Partner.

Posted by: goodkingned at March 26, 2006 5:46 AM
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