Doing the Job of Diplomacy


U.S.-Iran relations are a rather long and sad history of miscalculations, misjudgments, and missed opportunities. Though there have been ups and downs, the recent trend has been continuously negative-not necessarily because of clashing interests, but rather a lack of dialogue that often turns misunderstandings into crises.

Without open channels of communication, both sides have been forced to guess the other side's intentions and motives. And both sides have often guessed wrong.

Many opportunities have been lost, and we are increasingly moving closer to a situation in which the price of missing the next opportunity might simply be unacceptable to both sides.

If precautions are not taken, the current stalemate over the nuclear issue can transform into a crisis that will cost both countries and peoples dearly.

Tehran has in its latest offer to the EU Troika - France, Germany and the United Kingdom - insisted on a pilot scale enrichment program of no more than 3,000 centrifuges, under strict and intrusive international inspections  The Iranians claim these will be of such small scale that international concerns about potential Iranian weaponiziation will be alleviated. However, the Institute for Science and International Security argues that the Iranian proposal will still enable Iran to move closer to an industrial scale uranium enrichment program and weaponization.

Additionally, just this week, reports have surfaced that there are voices in Tehran threatening to resume an enrichment of uranium despite the ongoing talks. This would be a serious mistake by Tehran. In order to reach any settlement on the nuclear issue, we need to build rather than erode trust.

Although the Iranian proposal is a step in the right direction, it falls short of the guarantees needed to ensure that Iran doesn't weaponize, and that the Non-Proliferation Treaty isn't rendered useless in fighting nuclear proliferation.

This outcome should not be too surprising considering the process that produced it-a process in which one of the most important issues related to US and international security has been delegated to France, Germany, and the UK, without active American participation.

I welcome the Administration's decision to extend American support to the Europeans' negotiations with Iran. It is imperative that all diplomatic options are exhausted; proliferation is an issue of national security and should not be taken lightly.

Simply supporting the negotiations is insufficient: American participation is not only pivotal to achieve the desired result, but also to ensure that the public and international community can have confidence that the diplomatic track was fully and exhaustively explored should the Europeans' talks fail.

Giving diplomacy a chance has never, and should never mean just giving FRENCH diplomacy a chance.

It must mean that we permit our own diplomats to do their work.  At the end of the day, this is something that only Americans should be and can be trusted with: advancing American interests and protecting our national security.

With all due respect to the French, I know that my constituents in Ohio as well as Americans nationwide feel much more comfortable when the protection of America's national security is left to our own diplomats and men and women in uniform.

Now, I am not a nuclear scientist. I do not know whether 200 centrifuges is acceptable or whether 3,000 is not. But I do know that the solution to this current nuclear impasse is not a technical one, but a political one.

A technical solution is not a solution, but only a postponement of either a clash between the two countries or an actual political solution. The more we postpone an actual solution, the better the chances of a confrontation and the lower the chances of a peaceful solution.  This is due to a continuation of the decades-long erosion of trust between the two countries.

America and the international community have good reason to be distrustful of Iranian intentions. Iran mistreats its own population, arrests 24 year old internet bloggers, bars Iranian citizens from running for office, and some judiciary members regard medieval justice an ideal that should be pursued in the 21st century. This is not to mention Iran's history of supporting terror groups which have even targeted Iran's own population.

According to a senior Iranian strategist, Iran pursues a policy of "simulated irrationality". Tehran wants the outside world to perceive it as irrational, reasoning that this will make Iran less predictable and in turn strengthen its security.

One could easily argue that the Iranian strategy has worked. To many, Iran is perceived as irrational when compared to other countries, such as Denmark, Japan and Brazil, which enrich uranium and also happen to respect the rights of their own citizens.

So it is fully understandable that as long as Iran pursues this line of simulated irrationality, the international community will not put Iran in the same category as Denmark, Japan, Brazil, or other states with access to nuclear technology.

Simulated irrationality may be a successful tactic for survival in the muddy waters of Middle Eastern politics, but it is not a successful strategy for entering the politics of peaceful co-existence, technological advancement, and international legitimacy in the 21st century. 

It is a great miscalculation for Iran to believe that it can be fully rehabilitated into the international political order without changing its ways.