Sunday, September 6, 2009

Breaking the Iranian-American Nuclear Ice

The question is simple: how can the nuclear ice preventing progress in U.S.-Iranian relations be thawed?

Accepting and taking advantage of the current Iranian tactic of proposing six-party talks with the West including general global disarmament while reserving specific discussions of Iran's nuclear program to IAEA auspices might be a useful approach.

The Iranian approach is superficially logical. The IAEA is the place for nuclear discussions, after all. How can Washington oppose that? The IAEA is a key institution supporting the American-dominated global world order.

The oddity of Iran's tactic is that one cannot in practice intelligently discuss global disarmament without including Iran's aggressive program of nuclear research. To implement such a two-track process would provide limitless opportunities for the six-party discussions and the IAEA discussions to overlap, one venue competing with the other. Perhaps this would be all to the good, providing Washington and Iranian moderates with the ability to pick what they like from each track.

The double-track approach would also provide two alternative ways of eliciting Israel cooperation. If Israel wants to be accepted as a legitimate member of the international community, it can hardly refuse to participate in a discussion about global disarmament. Perhaps Iran can be persuaded that sincere participation can enable it to achieve serious national security goals.

The threats and bluster of the last decade have only made the situation worse. Why not try a little creative diplomacy?

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