In This Era of Hope, Obama Must Embrace a Genuine Agenda of Peace
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Diplomatic engagement with Iran is another major peace priority. The success of any plan for military withdrawal from Iraq depends upon the cooperation of neighboring states, especially Iran, which has significant influence with the Baghdad government. Cooperation with Iran is also needed to address mounting security challenges in Afghanistan, where Washington and Tehran share common objectives. Diplomatic engagement is the key to constraining Iran’s nuclear program and stemming nuclear proliferation in the region. All of these issues are interconnected. They require for their solution a fundamental break with the past policies of hostility and isolation and a vigorous commitment to diplomacy and mutually beneficial cooperation.
A number of former U.S. officials have proposed a comprehensive diplomatic strategy that offers Iran a grand bargain. The United States and its European allies would agree to a normalization of relations, including security assurances and an end to sanctions and military threats. In return, Iran would accept more rigorous controls on its nuclear program and would support regional stabilization and a Middle East peace process that guarantees Israel’s security alongside a viable Palestinian state. A commitment to diplomacy would mean abandoning regime-change policies, which Shirin Ebadi and other respected Iranian democracy advocates have condemned as counterproductive and strengthening repressive tendencies in Iran. It is proper to criticize Tehran's human-rights abuses, but this does not justify attempting to overthrow the regime.
Successful diplomacy with Iran will require modifying the current insistence that Iran abandon its uranium-enrichment program. As a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Tehran is legally entitled to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. Iran has already developed rudimentary enrichment capabilities and is unlikely to abandon a program in which it has invested so much political and economic capital. A compromise solution might be the creation of a multinational enrichment consortium, as proposed by former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering and endorsed by former International Atomic Energy Agency Director Hans Blix. Uranium enrichment would proceed on Iranian soil, but the facilities would be owned and operated by a consortium in which France, Germany and other countries might participate, with all operations subject to strict international control. Tehran has suggested a similar arrangement in the past and might be willing to support such a proposal again now. Negotiation of the proposed agreement would help to resolve the nuclear standoff and could open the door to cooperation on other issues.
Eliminating Nuclear Weapons
The effectiveness of U.S. nonproliferation policy in Iran and other countries depends on Washington’s willingness to reduce and eliminate its own nuclear arsenal. This is the opinion not only of the peace community but of former senior officials George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn and William Perry. The four have publicly committed themselves to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and in the process have transformed the nuclear debate. For the first time in the Atomic Age, the goal of nuclear abolition has broad bipartisan credibility. Obama has expressed public support for the Shultz initiative and has vowed to take action for nuclear weapons reduction and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. These goals exactly match the priorities of the peace community.
Agreement with Russia is needed by the end of 2009 to extend current weapons reductions and inspection protocols. This provides an opportunity to negotiate a new, more comprehensive treaty that reduces nuclear stockpiles to 1,000 weapons or below. As Moscow and Washington negotiate a new nuclear treaty, they should be urged to commit publicly to the goal of global zero, which is steadily gaining international support.
Ratification of the test ban treaty has been, and remains, an essential international security objective. A global ban on nuclear testing helps to prevent the development of new weapons and contributes to the mutual obsolescence of those that remain. When the United States ratifies the treaty, China will likely follow suit, which will put enormous pressure on India, and then Pakistan to do likewise. This would establish a pattern for global denuclearization that could become a template for achieving comprehensive disarmament.