Saturday, October 11, 2008

The case for pursuing a 'Grand Bargain' with Iran

Time for a U.S.-Iranian 'Grand Bargain' | The New America Foundation

From the thoughtful article by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett:

"Getting Started

"A U.S-Iranian grand bargain is a tall order. The commitments required of each side are not easy. They are, however, what each side needs to do to address the other's core concerns. No other approach explicitly seeks to resolve the most significant differences between the United States and Iran; therefore, no other diplomatic approach will actually resolve those differences.

"Based on numerous conversations with senior current and former Iranian officials -- including, most recently, with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in July -- we strongly believe that there is a critical mass of interest in and support for genuine strategic rapprochement with the United States. However, our conversations with Iranian officials also lead us to believe that a new U.S. administration interested in a more positive relationship with Iran will have to demonstrate that, under the right conditions, it is seriously willing to accept and live with the Islamic Republic. In this regard, the advocates of an incremental approach to engaging Iran have a point -- a certain level of bilateral confidence needs to be restored.

"One way for a new U.S. administration to get started with a redefinition of America's Iran policy would be to affirm the continuing validity of the Algiers Accord, the 1981 agreement that ended the crisis prompted by Iran's seizure of U.S. diplomats and other official personnel in Tehran as hostages following the Iranian revolution. The Algiers Accord includes a provision committing the United States not to interfere in Iran's internal affairs. Every subsequent U.S. administration has in some way affirmed its validity -- except for the current Bush administration, which has publicly characterized the agreement as a contract signed "under duress" and hence not valid.

"Affirmation of the Algiers Accord's validity by a new U.S. administration would send a powerful signal about the potential for substantial improvement in U.S.-Iranian ties. We believe that, in an atmosphere of enhanced confidence, it would be possible for U.S. and Iranian representatives to explore and codify a strategic framework for reordering U.S.-Iranian relations. The next U.S. administration will not have a more important foreign policy task."

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