The U.S. Needs a Deal with Iran, Not Detente – Ray Takeyh (Washington Post)
The U.S. has always insisted on sanctifying its negotiating partners, conjuring up moderates and searching for common ground. The challenge for Washington today is to defy its history and reach a nuclear agreement with Iran while negating the Islamic Republic’s regional ambitions.
On the surface, the chimera of bringing Iran in from the cold could prove alluring. Perhaps once the two sides have agreed on the nuclear file, they could move toward a larger canvass of cooperation.
The guardians of Iranian theocracy are far less sentimental than Americans about their diplomacy. Whatever confidence-building measures Iranian diplomats may be negotiating in Geneva, supreme leader Ali Khamenei insisted as recently as late November that Iran is “challenging the influence of America in the region and is extending its own influence.”
In Khamenei’s telling, the U.S. is a crestfallen imperial power unable to impose discipline on a recalcitrant Middle East. It is not his burden to salvage the wreckage of the U.S. but merely to fill the vacuums left by its abdication.
The key actors defining Iran’s regional policy are not its urbane diplomats mingling with their Western counterparts in Geneva but the Revolutionary Guard Corps, particularly the famed Quds Force.
At the core this conflict is ideological: Iran does not want us to succeed, and we should not want Tehran to prevail. The first step toward a sensible Iran policy is to dispense with the illusion of detente.
- The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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