President Bush maintained a steady message of alarm about Iran during his weekend Persian Gulf trip. On January 13 in Abu Dhabi, he called on Arab allies to confront the worlds leading state sponsor of terror. His decision to expedite the sale of high-tech satellite-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia (JPost) is an example. But as the U.S. president continues his tour of the region, the message from Arab allies regarding Iran is more subtle, nuanced, and cautionary…
Now that a nuclear threat is not imminent, the US long-range goal for negotiations with Iran ought to be to create a context in which Iran sees it as in its own self-interest to become more closely associated with the West and the international order. The US approach should reflect the mixed nature of shared as well as conflicting interests with Iran. The stabilization of Iraq, Persian Gulf security, nuclear counterproliferation, among others, should be cast as shared interests. The possibility of growing interaction economically should also be welcomed. At the same time, the United States should be clear that support of terrorism in the region directly threatens the security interests of Iran.
There should not be exaggerated expectations placed on such an approachit will not produce an immediate panacea. But at a minimum, the pursuit of a calm, strategic policy toward Iran may ensure that a future, more sober, post-Ahmadinejad leadership recognizes that an Iran linked more closely to the West and the international community will be more prosperous and secure.
Mark Brzezinski, an international lawyer in Washington, served on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.