Vali Nasr writes: For the first time since 2009, there may be signs of a break in the deadlock over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran entered the latest talks with a slightly softened position. That is good news, but the United States will have to change its negotiating strategy to take advantage of it.
Economic sanctions are biting hard in Iran. Meanwhile, its strategic position is crumbling because of the turmoil in its ally Syria and the rise of militant Sunni Islamism throughout the Arab Middle East. Together, these forces seem to have forced Iran to reconsider its own bargaining position.
So rather than strengthen sanctions another notch, America should give Iran a little tit for tat: begin negotiating directly, and put on the table the prospect of lifting sanctions, one by one, as bargaining chips.
The United States should shift from trying to further intimidate Iran to trying to clinch an agreement. The sanctions have given America leverage, and we should use it to seek a deal that would finally restrict Iran’s ability to make bomb fuel, rather than ratchet up the pressure in the hopes of getting either a broader deal now or a total surrender later.
The problem with just standing tough is that it is likely to backfire; Iran is understandably nervous, and if it thinks America is intransigent, it might double down on its nuclear program, speeding it up past a point of no return. [Continue reading…]