Earlier this week MoJo writer Laura Rozen asked an Israeli intel correspondent, an Iranian American activist, an arms expert, a former peace negotiator, and an anti-war intellectual:
How likely is a scenario in which the US or Israel strikes Iran before Bush leaves office? (Or is the Left falling for the hawks' propaganda?)
Read the original conversation here.
Now for a follow up question:
There have been hints of potentially momentous shifts on policy to Iran this past week. Final thoughts on what promises to be a long hot summer?
, a former Middle East peace negotiator, is Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative
at The Century Foundation, and of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation:
The first thing I would say would be to caution against expectations of a dramatic breakthrough in either direction—either imminent attacks or an imminent deal—when hearing the latest developments, which is good news in the case of the former, but not so much in the case of the latter. I would also be careful about drawing what some may see as an obvious causal relationship: Israel and American heightened the threat; Iran climbed down—longer and more complicated processes are at work.
If one were to be mischievous, one could even pose the opposite speculation: Namely, that in anticipation (or with advance information) of a greater Iranian willingness to demonstrate flexibility on the enrichment freeze, the threats were escalated in order to allow the claim that chest-thumping was working. If indeed we have inched closer towards negotiations, then the key thing will be to give those negotiations a chance to make progress and to demonstrate patience. Naturally, all sides would have to justify a change in approach to their respective domestic audiences.
The challenge will be to do this in a way that does not undermine the process itself. So keep any clucking and "they blinked first rhetoric" to a minimum. My own sense is that one of the significant factors in play here is that Iran, similar to other regional powers, is already looking beyond the Bush administration and beginning to choreograph it signals and messaging with the next administration in mind. Syria's resumption of negotiations with Israel probably comes from a similar place.
Hard diplomatic bargaining is not only the best option, but also the option most likely to address legitimate concerns on all sides in ways that the other parties can live with (limitations and transparency of any enrichment/civil nuclear energy program, Iranian regime security, cessations of Iranian provision of material assistance to groups deploying violence against Israeli civilians, etc.); and the new Trita Parsi-Shlomo Ben-Ami op-ed is well worth reading on this. But note—negotiations entail brinksmanship and moments of crisis that require very skillful management, which makes me worry given the current actors on the scene.
There have been some posts and questions on this thread regarding the relationship between the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the Iranian issue. In shorthand, I would say the following: