|Ivan Sascha Sheehan - Diplomatic Engagement With Iran Is A Fool’s Errand|
|Sunday, 03 June 2012 20:57|
Washington, May 30, 2012 - Now from the halls of academe. Ivan Sascha Sheehan specializes in the intersection of global terrorism, counterterrorism and international conflict management. He came to the University of Baltimore after serving on the graduate faculty of University of Massachusetts, Boston. Frequent speaker on U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the war on terrorism. Sheehan addressed diverse audiences from academic forums in Europe and Harvard Law School, for which we will forgive you -- (Laughter.)
MR. TANCREDO: -- to policymakers on Capitol Hill. His research based on terrorism incident data examines the impact of preemptive forces on the terrorist activities and the implications for U.S. foreign policy and international human security.
PROFESSOR SHEEHAN: Good morning to you all. Dick Morris and the gentlemen on this panel are difficult acts to follow. But I thank you for your applause. My students rarely applaud me. But it's a pleasure to be part of this important panel at this momentous time and in this very historic venue.
I'll begin my remarks this morning with a brief story. I was part of a panel, a round table several weeks ago at George Mason University. And the matters on the table were similar to the issues being discussed today: The de-listing of MeK, the failure to protect residents of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty from violent political retaliation by the Iranian regime and the growing realization on the part of a bipartisan group of senior government officials, policy analysts and academics alike that MeK is a valuable partner to the United States and for too long -- (Applause.)
PROFESSOR SHEEHAN: -- and for too long commitments to MeK have not been honored and broken promises ensued. Now, on the panel I was joined by the very distinguished Alan Dershowitz, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield, Jr. Over the course of our hour together we found that we shared a great deal in common.
All of the panelists agree that MeK's current designation as a terrorist group was the naive result of an effort to curry favor by then President Clinton with the Iranian government. And that the designation should be challenged and ultimately overturned.
All of the guests agree that the failure to protect the refugees at Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty constitutes the worst broken promise and an injustice that must be made right.
And all of the guests agreed that to use a phrase made famous by President Kennedy, MeK stands on the right side of history. The right side of history. Against clerical rule, against proxy violence, against state sponsored terrorism and against the mistreatment of women.
Because of the hard work of so many of the people in this room MeK is increasingly viewed as a valuable and courageous voice of dissent and the primary voice of opposition to theocratic rule in Tehran.
PROFESSOR SHEEHAN: Tehran's violent ways, their dishonest diplomacy and their ongoing pursuit of weapons of mass destruction stands in direct contrast to MeK, an organization that has renounced violence and is working to promote grassroots change in Iran so that she can some day live at peace with her neighbors but while there's growing recognition that the Iranian opposition represents the future, we are currently faced with a challenge of momentous consequence and today we stand at a cross roads.
Last week, as you know, six world powers resumed discussions with the world in Baghdad to avert a nuclear crisis. While I agree with President Obama on several matters and several policy descriptions, his decision to pursue discussions with the Iranian regime is not sensible and it is dangerous.
As I wrote in an editorial this week, history suggests that diplomatic engagement with Iran is a fool’s errand. There is today no cause for optimism and there is no hope that these ongoing talks will lead to a peaceful solution to this nuclear standoff. And there are certainly no grounds for the Security Council’s claims of progress through diplomacy. Iran only wants to buy more time with these talks.
Consider this, after not one but two prolonged discussions, no concrete proposals from the diplomatic efforts in Istanbul or Baghdad have been realized and a timetable for inspections of Iran nuclear facilities has not been achieved. As the great powers now prepare for a third round of talks, this time in Moscow, we're likely to hear the same empty rhetoric and we together must challenge it.
Western officials will again downplay the prospects for an immediate breakthrough. Negotiations will be deemed a long process. Trivial concessions will be framed as political victories. And not surprisingly Iranian officials will herald the talks as fruitful and call for continued cooperation.
The result? The world will be, stage will be set for more broken promises and Iran's influence will grow in a region reading itself for the inevitable power vacuum created by its smaller U.S. footprint in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This I think you'll agree is a troubling, a troubling legacy for a U.S. president to face with the prospect of a single term and it constitutes a blemish on an otherwise impressive foreign policy
The Obama Administration's unwillingness to forcefully leverage hard and soft power to address the Iran problem underscores a combination of naivety, unwillingness to face the threat posed by Tehran, and a troubling sense that international conflicts made for bad electoral politics.
As the talks drag on, Iran's self-appointed leaders buy precious time to pursue their ultimate goal of a nuclear arsenal. And more troubling the world is held hostage to the posturing a rote regime with a long history of promoting instability and proxy values.
But it's not too late to correct these mistakes and it's not yet too late to ensure that U.S. security interests are not jeopardized.
If the Obama Administration is listening and I'm hopeful they are, I recommend five immediate steps before the next round of negotiations commence.
Number one, the U.S. should signal Iran that if negotiations fail to achieve substantive ends, the U.S. or other world powers may choose to act with force to curtail Iran's nuclear plants while the conventional discourse here in Washington frames the options available to the U.S. Government as only involving diplomat engagement or tactical military strikes. We know that there are other options.
You and I know that regime change can also take place from within. Covert action can be used to frustrate and set back Iranian nuclear plants. But support for Iranian opposition is also imperative.
Nevertheless, if negotiations fail to succeed the possible use of force and the potential for the removal of Iranian officials must be put squarely on the negotiating table. It must be clear, discussions cannot and will not be used to buy time for the pursuit of dangerous weapons that will destabilize the region. The failure to engage in honest diplomacy will have consequences.
Number two, MeK should be formally removed from the U.S. Department of State Foreign Terrorist Organization List and recast as the political alternative to theocratic rule in Tehran.
PROFESSOR SHEEHAN: Correcting the list to reflect Iranian government will be checked with support for a grassroots movement that can challenge its authority.
Number three, U.S. officials should demand that International Atomic Energy Agency officials be given unfettered access to Iran so-called peaceful nuclear program and Tehran should be made to furnish evidence of its halting of uranium to weapons grades levels.
Number four, U.S. officials should step up political and economic sanctions and build support among world powers to do the same. Over the past year, existing economic sanctions have taken a toll inside Iran and Iranians are increasingly holding their government accountable.
A European oil embargo that would take effect on July 1st is a necessary means of further ripening the negotiating environment, exploiting Iran's ongoing troubles and ensuring future compliance with negotiated concessions.
Finally, number five, the U.S. must take responsibility for the protection and ultimate resettlement of refugees housed at Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty and you must insist that U.S. policymakers live up to their commitment and their pledges to the promotion of human rights.
These measures will have, I promise you, an impact at the negotiating table. But Iran's well-earned reputation for being masters of diplomatic sleight of hand as well as their long history of working against U.S. interests should also be taken into consideration by U.S. negotiators in Moscow. Tehran's sophisticated use of threat and accommodation to ensure it's own political interest must be seen for what it is and the recognition that as some in this room have suggested no package of concessions or incentives will dissuade Iran from its current course must be considered.
The window for diplomatic action is closing rapidly. And current talks in Istanbul and Baghdad have left unresolved key issues. Iranian sincerity must now be checked with calls for substantive action.
The primary fountainhead of terror in the modern world cannot be allowed to hold the word hostage by raising hopes and dashing expectations only to buy time for the illicit pursuit of a nuclear power stock pile.
Now, while I'm doubtful that next month's talks in Moscow will result in these concrete proposals of which I speak, the talks do serve a purpose. Iranian intent is now abundantly clear and Tehran's reputation for breaking promises and their unmistakable efforts to use negotiations as a means of buying time for nuclear armament. These things are all confirmed and they're not visible to the world.
But while the situation seems grim, I'm increasingly hopeful. In your valuable work, in your determined efforts, in your courageous and sustained effort to shift American policy in a manner consistent with U.S. vital national interests and the U.S. commitment to human rights, I see enormous progress.
Your voice has helped to recast the voice of MeK as the voice of Iranian resistance. Your voice has led to this bipartisan recognition that the existing government in Iran is an illegitimate partner whose commitments cannot be honored. And your voice has led to the growing recognition of the brave and honorable Iranian opposition and all that they stand for.
MR. SHEEHAN: Together we have much work to do but I'm confident that if together we stand on the right side of history our ongoing work will lead to an Iran that is at peace with your neighbors and an Iran that is a partner to the United States. Once again, it's been a privilege to join you this morning and this distinguished panel and I look forward to our continued work together.
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