Blogs: Paul Pillar

Good Regional Vibrations from a Nuclear Deal with Iran

Paul Pillar

To the west in Iraq, the principal Iranian objective is never again to see a regime that would, as did Saddam Hussein in 1980, launch a war of aggression. The Iranians do not want endless instability on their western border. They want Iraqi Shiites to have power commensurate with their majority numbers, while they realize—as indicated by their welcoming the departure of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki—that narrowly sectarian or authoritarian rule does not serve either Iraqi stability or their own interests. They definitely oppose the rise of Sunni fanatics such as those of ISIS, as indicated by the very active support that Iran is giving to the Iraqi government in opposing ISIS. All of these objectives are consistent with and even supportive of U.S. interests. And on the last topic, they are directly supportive of what has come to be seen in the United States as a pressing policy priority.

The potential for—and the need for—greater coordination and communication between the United States and Iran should be obvious, and a nuclear agreement would open the door to more such coordination and communication. Evidently it is not obvious, however, to some of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who questioned Secretary of State Kerry this week and wanted to make darned sure that the United States was not coordinating with Iran about confronting ISIS. Evidently some members, however much they may be fired up about anti-ISIS measures, believe that uncoordinated measures are better than the coordinated variety. Iran is more evil than ISIS, explained one member. Such attitudes are directly detrimental to the pursuit of important U.S. interests in the Middle East.

If the negotiators succeed in reaching a deal, by all means let us evaluate it according to the specific declared purpose of making an Iranian nuclear weapon less likely, and let us discuss whether the agreement does a better job of that than the absence of an agreement would. But let us also weigh an agreement versus no agreement according to all the other U.S. interests in the region that might be affected. Movement toward a more normal U.S.-Iranian relationship would be a step toward making possible the practice of U.S. regional diplomacy without having one hand tied behind our back—tied by ourselves because we have subordinated so much else to the nuclear obsession.                        

Image: U.S. State Department Flickr. 

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The Blurred Lines of Religious Zealotry

Paul Pillar

To the west in Iraq, the principal Iranian objective is never again to see a regime that would, as did Saddam Hussein in 1980, launch a war of aggression. The Iranians do not want endless instability on their western border. They want Iraqi Shiites to have power commensurate with their majority numbers, while they realize—as indicated by their welcoming the departure of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki—that narrowly sectarian or authoritarian rule does not serve either Iraqi stability or their own interests. They definitely oppose the rise of Sunni fanatics such as those of ISIS, as indicated by the very active support that Iran is giving to the Iraqi government in opposing ISIS. All of these objectives are consistent with and even supportive of U.S. interests. And on the last topic, they are directly supportive of what has come to be seen in the United States as a pressing policy priority.

The potential for—and the need for—greater coordination and communication between the United States and Iran should be obvious, and a nuclear agreement would open the door to more such coordination and communication. Evidently it is not obvious, however, to some of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who questioned Secretary of State Kerry this week and wanted to make darned sure that the United States was not coordinating with Iran about confronting ISIS. Evidently some members, however much they may be fired up about anti-ISIS measures, believe that uncoordinated measures are better than the coordinated variety. Iran is more evil than ISIS, explained one member. Such attitudes are directly detrimental to the pursuit of important U.S. interests in the Middle East.

If the negotiators succeed in reaching a deal, by all means let us evaluate it according to the specific declared purpose of making an Iranian nuclear weapon less likely, and let us discuss whether the agreement does a better job of that than the absence of an agreement would. But let us also weigh an agreement versus no agreement according to all the other U.S. interests in the region that might be affected. Movement toward a more normal U.S.-Iranian relationship would be a step toward making possible the practice of U.S. regional diplomacy without having one hand tied behind our back—tied by ourselves because we have subordinated so much else to the nuclear obsession.                        

Image: U.S. State Department Flickr. 

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We Have Met the Source of Questionable Strategy and He Is Us

Paul Pillar

To the west in Iraq, the principal Iranian objective is never again to see a regime that would, as did Saddam Hussein in 1980, launch a war of aggression. The Iranians do not want endless instability on their western border. They want Iraqi Shiites to have power commensurate with their majority numbers, while they realize—as indicated by their welcoming the departure of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki—that narrowly sectarian or authoritarian rule does not serve either Iraqi stability or their own interests. They definitely oppose the rise of Sunni fanatics such as those of ISIS, as indicated by the very active support that Iran is giving to the Iraqi government in opposing ISIS. All of these objectives are consistent with and even supportive of U.S. interests. And on the last topic, they are directly supportive of what has come to be seen in the United States as a pressing policy priority.

The potential for—and the need for—greater coordination and communication between the United States and Iran should be obvious, and a nuclear agreement would open the door to more such coordination and communication. Evidently it is not obvious, however, to some of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who questioned Secretary of State Kerry this week and wanted to make darned sure that the United States was not coordinating with Iran about confronting ISIS. Evidently some members, however much they may be fired up about anti-ISIS measures, believe that uncoordinated measures are better than the coordinated variety. Iran is more evil than ISIS, explained one member. Such attitudes are directly detrimental to the pursuit of important U.S. interests in the Middle East.

If the negotiators succeed in reaching a deal, by all means let us evaluate it according to the specific declared purpose of making an Iranian nuclear weapon less likely, and let us discuss whether the agreement does a better job of that than the absence of an agreement would. But let us also weigh an agreement versus no agreement according to all the other U.S. interests in the region that might be affected. Movement toward a more normal U.S.-Iranian relationship would be a step toward making possible the practice of U.S. regional diplomacy without having one hand tied behind our back—tied by ourselves because we have subordinated so much else to the nuclear obsession.                        

Image: U.S. State Department Flickr. 

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The Latest Cost of Islamophobia

Paul Pillar

To the west in Iraq, the principal Iranian objective is never again to see a regime that would, as did Saddam Hussein in 1980, launch a war of aggression. The Iranians do not want endless instability on their western border. They want Iraqi Shiites to have power commensurate with their majority numbers, while they realize—as indicated by their welcoming the departure of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki—that narrowly sectarian or authoritarian rule does not serve either Iraqi stability or their own interests. They definitely oppose the rise of Sunni fanatics such as those of ISIS, as indicated by the very active support that Iran is giving to the Iraqi government in opposing ISIS. All of these objectives are consistent with and even supportive of U.S. interests. And on the last topic, they are directly supportive of what has come to be seen in the United States as a pressing policy priority.

The potential for—and the need for—greater coordination and communication between the United States and Iran should be obvious, and a nuclear agreement would open the door to more such coordination and communication. Evidently it is not obvious, however, to some of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who questioned Secretary of State Kerry this week and wanted to make darned sure that the United States was not coordinating with Iran about confronting ISIS. Evidently some members, however much they may be fired up about anti-ISIS measures, believe that uncoordinated measures are better than the coordinated variety. Iran is more evil than ISIS, explained one member. Such attitudes are directly detrimental to the pursuit of important U.S. interests in the Middle East.

If the negotiators succeed in reaching a deal, by all means let us evaluate it according to the specific declared purpose of making an Iranian nuclear weapon less likely, and let us discuss whether the agreement does a better job of that than the absence of an agreement would. But let us also weigh an agreement versus no agreement according to all the other U.S. interests in the region that might be affected. Movement toward a more normal U.S.-Iranian relationship would be a step toward making possible the practice of U.S. regional diplomacy without having one hand tied behind our back—tied by ourselves because we have subordinated so much else to the nuclear obsession.                        

Image: U.S. State Department Flickr. 

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Realism Versus Political Correctness in Opposing ISIS

Paul Pillar

To the west in Iraq, the principal Iranian objective is never again to see a regime that would, as did Saddam Hussein in 1980, launch a war of aggression. The Iranians do not want endless instability on their western border. They want Iraqi Shiites to have power commensurate with their majority numbers, while they realize—as indicated by their welcoming the departure of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki—that narrowly sectarian or authoritarian rule does not serve either Iraqi stability or their own interests. They definitely oppose the rise of Sunni fanatics such as those of ISIS, as indicated by the very active support that Iran is giving to the Iraqi government in opposing ISIS. All of these objectives are consistent with and even supportive of U.S. interests. And on the last topic, they are directly supportive of what has come to be seen in the United States as a pressing policy priority.

The potential for—and the need for—greater coordination and communication between the United States and Iran should be obvious, and a nuclear agreement would open the door to more such coordination and communication. Evidently it is not obvious, however, to some of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who questioned Secretary of State Kerry this week and wanted to make darned sure that the United States was not coordinating with Iran about confronting ISIS. Evidently some members, however much they may be fired up about anti-ISIS measures, believe that uncoordinated measures are better than the coordinated variety. Iran is more evil than ISIS, explained one member. Such attitudes are directly detrimental to the pursuit of important U.S. interests in the Middle East.

If the negotiators succeed in reaching a deal, by all means let us evaluate it according to the specific declared purpose of making an Iranian nuclear weapon less likely, and let us discuss whether the agreement does a better job of that than the absence of an agreement would. But let us also weigh an agreement versus no agreement according to all the other U.S. interests in the region that might be affected. Movement toward a more normal U.S.-Iranian relationship would be a step toward making possible the practice of U.S. regional diplomacy without having one hand tied behind our back—tied by ourselves because we have subordinated so much else to the nuclear obsession.                        

Image: U.S. State Department Flickr. 

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