The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

US carrots for Iran

May 3, 2006

Dan Kervick, whose fine blog seems to be dormant, often leaves comments on many of the same blogs I read.

This comment about US carrots to offer Iran, posted at Democracy Arsenal, is worth preserving:

We’ve heard a lot about the sticks recently, but the carrots available to the US are impressive indeed. One of Iran’s top concerns is the $10 B – $12 B in assets that were frozen in 1979 following the hostage crisis. The US also maintains stringent economic sanctions against Iran. Surely the prospect of having those assets unfrozen and sanctions lifted, opening up a market of hundreds of millions of avid consumers in the world’s wealthiest country, while at the same time making more US products available to Iran’s own eager young consumers, provide some very attractive negotiating chips.

And let’s not forget the security concerns. The US now operates bases on Iran’s western border in Iraq, and on its northeastern border in Afghanistan. It has cooperative ties with Pakistan’s government, one of the two major nuclear powers in the region that are rivals of Iran. It has a very strong presence in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. It operates UAV flights inside Iran, and reportedly runs covert operations on the ground inside the country. It is now purportedly funding dissident activity and destabilization in Iran. It has strong relations with Iraqi Kurds, and with anti-Iran forces in Lebanon. And of course it has very strong relations with Israel, the other major Iranian rival and nuclear power in the region.

Dan doesn’t really consider the possibility that the US did Iran a major service by toppling Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. To the contrary, he writes:

In fact, almost all of the major US security moves since 9/11 can be seen as ways of tightening the noose around Iran

This is a relatively minor criticism, however, especially given the excellent catalog of “abundant” economic or security carrots the US could offer Iran.

Dan might also have mentioned that Iran apparently wants WTO membership, and that the US could even help broker Iranian access to cheap enriched uranium. Oh, and Iran has a lot of old US military equipment from the “bad-old-days” under the Shah when Iran was essentially a US client state. They could use some spare parts and new equipment.

Given these options and the likelihood that the Iranian bomb is probably a decade away, it is difficult to explain why American officials are sounding so hysterical about Iran right now.

Is this an election year or something?

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.