United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Ex-officials say Reinvigorate Iran Diplomacy

July 15, 2013
The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500 

Dear President Obama,
            The election of Hassan Rouhani to be Iran’s next president presents a major potential opportunity to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. We strongly encourage your Administration to seize the moment to pursue new multilateral and bilateral negotiations with Iran once Rouhani takes office and to avoid any provocative action that could narrow the window of opportunity for a more moderate policy out of Tehran.
            Once the new president has been inaugurated, the United States should pursue coordinated multilateral engagement on the nuclear issue through the P5+1. Additionally, the U.S. should prepare to redouble its efforts to pursue direct, bilateral negotiations with Iran to engage on issues beyond the nuclear file, such as human rights and regional security. After assessing the orientation of the new Iranian government, the U.S. and partners should prepare to offer a new set of proposals to limit Iran’s enrichment and nuclear materials stockpiles combined with stringent oversight and verification measures.
            While it will take time to secure an agreement to resolve all concerns, diplomacy will only succeed if we are prepared to leverage existing sanctions and other incentives in exchange for reciprocal Iranian concessions. Further, in the leadup to Rouhani’s inauguration, it is critical that all parties abstain from provocative actions that could imperil this diplomatic opportunity. For the U.S., no further sanctions should be imposed or considered at this time as they could empower hardliners opposed to nuclear concessions at the expense of those seeking to shift policy in a more moderate direction.
            It remains to be seen whether this opportunity will yield real results. But the United States, Iran, and the rest of the international community cannot afford to miss or dismiss the potential opportunity before us. In the past, when one side has failed to seize an opportunity to resolve the standoff between the U.S. and Iran, it has only produced worse outcomes and diminishing options. Given the current state of Iran’s nuclear capability, the heightened tensions in the region, and the potential for a confrontation, all parties involved should be ready and willing to seize this opportunity to achieve diplomatic progress towards a peaceful resolution of the standoff.
 
Sincerely,
Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center
 
Prof. Juan Cole, University of Michigan
 
Prof. Farideh Farhi, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
 
Amb. Chas Freeman, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
 
Lt. General Robert G. Gard, Jr. Former President of National Defense University
 
Col. Sam Gardiner, United States Air Force, Retired
 
Morton Halperin, former Special Assistant to the President, Senior Director for Democracy at the National Security Council, and State Department Director of Policy Planning
 
General Joseph P. Hoar, former Commander in Chief, United States Central Command
 
Amb. Steen Hohw-Christensen, former Ambassador of Sweden to Iran
 
Amb. Peter Jenkins, former Ambassador of the UK to the IAEA
 
Amb. Dennis Jett, Professor of International Affairs, Penn State University
 
Brig. General John Johns, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
 
Larry Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense
 
Amb. John Limbert, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran
 
Reza Marashi, former Iran Desk officer, US Department of State; Research Director, National Iranian American Council
 
Alireza Nader, Iran analyst
 
Amb. François Nicoullaud, former Ambassador of France to Iran
 
Dr. Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council
 
Bruno Pellaud, former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency
 
Amb. Thomas Pickering, former Under Secretary of State
 
Paul Pillar, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, Central Intelligence Agency
 
Gary Sick, Iran specialist on National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan; Columbia University
 
Anne-Marie Slaughter, former State Department Director of Policy Planning 
 
John Steinbruner, Director, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, University of Maryland
 
Greg Thielman, former Director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office in the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research
 
Amb. Roberto Toscano, former Ambassador of Italy to Iran
 
Dr. Jim Walsh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program (SSP)
 
Wayne White, former Deputy Director of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence
 
Col. Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Gen. Colin Powell
 

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