In a Washington Post oped cowritten by Ali G. Scotten and POMED Executive Director Andrew Albertson on September 30, 2009, the two encourage the Obama administration to open a dialogue on human rights with Iran.
The situation has changed significantly since the Obama administration’s initial offer to talk with Tehran. The post-election protests this summer and the regime’s subsequent crackdown have undermined whatever merit the administration may have once seen in a realpolitik negotiations strategy. With the talks looming, the United States cannot pretend that the violence in the streets never happened, but neither can Washington be seen to fold. In fact, it should raise the stakes by broadening the agenda to include human rights.
The critics of diplomacy have a point: Tehran has nothing to lose, and much to gain, by drawing out talks and committing to little. However, beyond diplomacy, the administration’s policy options are limited and in all likelihood counterproductive. Broad sanctions of the kind Congress is considering won’t work; going after Iran’s ability to import gas is likely to simply frustrate ordinary Iranians. Nor would the U.S. negotiating position be bolstered by encouraging Israel to bomb Iran, as John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has suggested. Far from weakening the regime, these steps would strengthen it politically as Iranians rallied to support the hard-liners around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against the perceived bullying of the United States.
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