Checkbook Diplomacy

I got an email alerting me to MDC’s analysis over at Foreign Policy Watch of the export guarantees proposal for Iranian enriched uranium that I mentioned earlier, reminding me that this was in fact where I first learned of the idea. So a belated citation is in order. He raises a good point about how exactly to determine what constitutes “excess” uranium, considering Iran has no functioning reactors, and the nuclear fuel for the one that’s soon to go online at Bushehr was delivered by Russia. This is, of course, one factor that raised so many red flags about Iran’s enrichment program in the first place.

MDC titles his post, Buying off your Enemies: Could it Work with Iran? Which reminded me of this Sam Rogeeveen post over at The Interpreter about bribery as an instrument of statecraft, particularly with regard to America’s North Korea policy. To hazard an answer to MDC’s question, I think that the problem with bribing the Iranians is that they happen to be pretty flush with oil revenues right now. But they are desperate for investment in developing their gas reserves, and contrary to N. Korea, their goal is to become more integrated into the Middle East regional architecture, not less. The question isn’t so much whether bribery will work, but what the currency should be. When you follow the Iranian press, you get a sense of just how much the enrichment program represents pride of accomplishment. And I think this guaranteed export idea appeals to that, especially if the uranium were directed to other Arab states’ civil nuclear programs. Unblocking that standoff could in turn lead to attractive areas of investment “bribery,” both of which, in my opinion, are less costly than a regional conflagration.

Meanwhile, while I’m on the subject of Iran and North Korea and bribery and nuclear programs, I’ll direct your attention to a fascinating debate that’s been taking place over at The Interpreter over America’s North Korea policy. The final post, with links to all those that preceded it, is here. A valuable “neighborhood” perspective covering a range of opinions that’s definitely worth a read.