Should We Really Be Rushing Iran?

If you’d like an alternative take on the latest round of Iran nuclear talks, try Flynt Leverett’s and Hillary Mann Leverett’s corrective in the National Interest. They condemn the rush to impose what they call an artificial deadline on Iran to accept our pre-conditions, even if those are more generously defined. Instead, they put the negotiations in the context of consistent Iranian efforts to use issue-specific cooperation as a way to engage a “comprehensive diplomatic agenda,” efforts consistently disappointed by this and previous American administrations. The Leverett’s suggest that recent shifts in American posture have created a receptive climate in Iran to once again try to arrive at some sort of grand bargain. But that opportunity will be lost if we once again reduce the negotiating track to a deadline-enforced, single-issue track.

There’s a danger, in the Leveretts’ argument, of getting lulled into the kind of longterm, potentially fruitless negotiations that in essence give the Iranians time to proceed with their technological advances in the nuclear fuel cycle. But there’s also the chance that by treating the roots, the leaves take care of themselves. Whether that chance seems worth the risk or not probably depends on how you see the world in general, and the Iranians in particular. The Leveretts are diplomats, and Hillary Mann Leverett participated in some of the multilateral negotiations that they cite as examples of Iranian cooperativeness, which offers insights, but also a self-selecting pool. To my mind, the most compelling argument they raise is that by rushing this round of talks to an ultimatum, we leave ourselves little to no leverage to achieve our objective, which is a negotiated settlement to the issue.

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