Professor Emeritus at The University of Michigan and has taught regularly as Visiting Professor at Georgetown University.
After I served on the Reagan-Bush National Security Council staff in the 1980s, my former colleagues cooked up an approach of reaching out to the Islamic Republic of Iran. As we know from the transfer of U.S. arms to Iran in exchange for Americans held hostage by Iranian proxies in Lebanon, extending a hand to Iran failed. Capitulation was the outcome of that scheme, as more hostages were seized following receipt of American arms by Iran.
Harking back to the era when President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reached out to China to balance the Soviet Union, my former associates envisioned that extending a hand to Tehran would create an American-Iranian condominium that would bring security and peace to the Middle East. But in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Islamic Republic had not made a decision to be a normal nation rather than a revolutionary cause.
Two decades after this failure, political-realist President Barack Obama uses nuclear talks between the major powers and Iran to test whether it is ready to come in from the cold. With an adroit use of mostly congressionally-imposed financial and trade sanctions, Obama hoped it would be possible to turn Iran away from its revolutionary zeal and into a nation engaged economically with the West that fits within the U.S. security framework for the Middle East. If Rouhani were a realist, he might calculate as Obama would and conclude that preserving the Revolution is not as worthwhile as a prosperous economy.
A kidnapper-diplomat is an oxymoron—words with contradictory meanings, In this case, the terms suggest that an ambassador has operated outside the rules of diplomacy. Now tack on evidence that he is linked to an assassination of another envoy; then surely there are grounds for his exclusion from the United States.
When Iraq holds nationwide parliamentary elections on Wednesday, is it possible for Washington to secure a victory for the Iraqi people and enhance U.S. interests? The answer depends on awareness of past bipartisan mistakes, effects of those blunders, and willingness to use U.S. leverage more wisely than after prior Iraqi elections.
Ayad Allawi captured two more seats than Maliki’s faction in 2010, and yet Maliki received the mandate to form a government. Just as Washington backed Tehran’s preference for Maliki then, it is in the interests of the Iraqi and American people to align with the Kurds in support of the democratic opposition, including Allawi, now. In this way, Obama might snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
(Picture –> President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani)
Why the concern with likelihood of Iranian noncompliance at midterm? If Tehran cheats and we retreat, there may be more challenges across the globe against American interests and allies. Because the Obama administration lacks an overall strategy that measures actions in one arena by effects elsewhere, it tends to act tactically. Precipitous withdrawal from Iraq had unintended effects in Syria. Precipitate pullout from Afghanistan will reverberate in Pakistan and India. As Russia threatens more forays into bordering countries, China makes threats against Japan, and North Korea warns South Korea, now is not the time to show a weak hand to Tehran.
A feckless policy toward Iran in the nuclear talks is also manifest in abandonment of pro-American Iranian dissidents in Iraq, the Mojahedin. Although there was a Bush administration pledge to protect these dissidents if they disarmed during the takedown of Saddam, Obama left them exposed to proxies of Iran operating freely in Iraq.
And while Bush said to the Iranian people, “As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you,” Obama declines to reach out to them with such inspirational rhetoric. Given the failing grade at midterm, now is the time to take a tough stand against Tehran in nuclear talks and to reach out to the Iranian people.
(Picture –> President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani)
President Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia during the last week of March  offers an occasion for reflection of the Middle East security situation, with special reference to the threat from Iran to the Saudi Kingdom and how to counter that threat by reaching out to the Iranian people.
President Obama abandoned pro-American Iranian dissidents in Iraq, the Mojahedin. In face of Iranian regime threats, his actions breathed new life in Tehran’s efforts to subjugate Iraq and Arab Gulf states. Although there was a Bush administration pledge to protect Iranian dissidents if they disarmed during the 2003-2004 takedown of Saddam Hussein, Washington subsequently left them exposed to the not-so-tender mercies of Iranian proxies operating freely in Iraq.
A symbol of regime change in Tehran to youths within Iran and expatriates worldwide, the Mojahedin are unconcerned with fomenting unrest in Saudi Arabia. They are under virtual imprisonment in Camp Liberty, Iraq and are subject to periodic attack by Iranian-sponsored militias. The shared interests between the Kingdom and Iranian dissidents in Iraq provide good reasons for them to work in tandem as counters to threats from the Iranian regime.
(Picture –> Foreign Minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif)
Assume failure to reach agreement in the six-party talks over Iran’s nuclear program by the target date of July 20, 2014. Russian retaliation in the talks because of Western sanctions and inability to close the divide between American and Iranian views about the interim accord of January make prospects for a permanent accord slim.
Regarding human rights, failure of the talks would provide an occasion for the Obama administration to open the door to the Iranian people not just to the regime. Washington negotiates with Beijing, yet reaches out to the Chinese people and to what the central government considers an “enemy” like the Dalai Lama. Washington should do no less with the Iranian people. And subsequent talks with Iran must include a human rights component.
If the top EU representative can meet with Iranian dissidents in Tehran, President Obama could meet with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, whose offices are within a block of the White House. Tehran is more threatened by its internal opposition than by external friends or enemies—reaching out to Iranian dissidents is the way forward in anticipation of failure of the negotiations with Iran.