"Can Obama Untangle the Iranian Challenge?" Ask Iran Experts

By Hamedani, Nina | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2009 | Go to article overview
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"Can Obama Untangle the Iranian Challenge?" Ask Iran Experts


Hamedani, Nina, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


THE NATIONAL Iranian American Council (NIAC) held a Nov. 18 policy conference in Washington, DC to unveil a Joint Experts' Statement proposing recommendations for U.S.-Iranian relations.

"The time for a new Iran policy is now-30 years of isolation and threats have done nothing to change Iranian behavior and advance U.S. interests," said NIAC president Trita Parsi. "On Iran, President-elect Obama has a great opportunity to change failures of the past to successes of the future through dialogue and negotiations."

The Experts' Statement was introduced during NIAC's first panel, comprising Ambassador James Dobbins, former assistant secretary of state and currently with the RAND Corp.; Dr. Farideh Farhi, professor of political science at the University of Hawaii; and Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund. Authored by 19 prominent experts on Iran, the statement listed the five key steps Washington can implement for effective diplomacy with Iran as follows:

1. Replace calls for regime change with a long-term strategy for communication and diplomacy.

2. Support human rights legitimately and not through interference as "democracy promotion."

3. Allow-if not welcome-Iranian involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and the region.

4. Approach the nuclear issue within broader U.S.-Iran relations and forego focusing on preconditions.

5. Act as an honest broker for Arab-Israeli peace.

Ambassador Dobbins reminded the audience that "insanity has been defined as continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result." Although "a dialogue with Iran will not lead to immediate results," he added, "it always produces information" that can lead "to a better range of choices and better policies.

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