October 22, 2004

NEGOTIATE THEIR DEMISE:

The Libya model: The United States and its allies managed to persuade Libya to renounce unconventional weapons. Rather than resort to rattling sabers, Washington should adopt a similar approach with Iran and Syria. (R Bruce St John, 10/23/04, Foreign Policy in Focus)

There is general agreement on the need for policy change in Damascus and Tehran. The contentious issue is how best to encourage and foster the desired change. Reminiscent of the build up to the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has been strong on rhetoric but absent a comprehensive, coherent plan to shape future events in either Iran or Syria. The US has also failed, once again, to secure the full coordination and support of interested allies, like France, Germany, Great Britain and the Soviet Union.

The prolonged negotiations which eventually led Libya in December 2003 to renounce unconventional weapons of its own "free will" offer a more productive model for dialogue with Iran and Syria than the "take no prisoner" approach being pursued by the Bush administration. Talks with Libya began in mid-1999 at a time when the US was indicating it sought policy change but not regime change in Libya. In this initial stage, the involved parties agreed to tone down the rhetoric and begin a meaningful dialogue in pursuit of a step-by-step process.

These early negotiations with Libya were based from the outset on an explicit quid pro quo as ambassador Martin Indyk, the US assistant secretary of state who opened talks with Libya in mid-1999, later indicated in a Washington Post op-ed article. The talks aimed at Libya satisfying all of its obligations under applicable UN resolutions and were predicated on two conditions: Libyan agreement both to keep the negotiations quiet and to cease lobbying to have the UN sanctions permanently lifted. The Bill Clinton administration elected not to pursue the unconventional weapons question at this time because its priority remained resolution of the Pan Am flight 103 issue.

Tripartite talks opened between Great Britain, Libya and the US in January 2001 were also based on a "script" which indicated what Libya must say and do to resolve the Pan Am flight 103 issue and to cause the UN sanctions to be lifted. According to Flynt Leverett, senior director for Middle East Politics at the National Security Council in 2002-03, the final round of negotiations with Libya, which began in March 2003, also centered on an explicit quid pro quo. In this case, the US told Libya that, in return for a verifiable dismantlement of its unconventional weapons programs, Washington would lift its bilateral sanctions on Tripoli, perhaps before end 2004.

As the prolonged negotiations with Libya suggest, the US needs to engage Iran and Syria on a broad range of interrelated issues, taking one step at a time. Narrow contact on the highly charged nuclear issue in the case of Iran or Syria's occupation of Lebanon, tied to the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and Israel-Syria peace talks, is unlikely to work. On the contrary, Washington needs to engage Tehran on a basket of related issues, like Iranian fears of regime destabilization, a regional security architecture that includes Iran and its neighbors, and Iranian support for radical groups in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. In turn, US talks with Syria need to expand to include border and water issues with Israel and support for militant Palestinian groups as well as alleged unconventional weapons programs, support in stabilizing Iraq, and ongoing cooperation in the "war on terrorism". [...]

Where a process of engagement with Tripoli led to its renouncing unconventional weapons and rejoining the international community with no loss of life, Washington's belligerent policy of isolation is provoking the opposite reaction in Damascus and Tehran. Both states have hunkered down under the verbal onslaught from the White House and shown little inclination or ability to cooperate on Washington's terms. Unfortunately, if such pre-election antics prove a reliable guide, meaningful dialogue with either Damascus or Tehran would also appear unlikely in a second Bush administration.


Actually, Libya presents a strong argument in favor of regime change, as all its recent reformist moves have came as a result of the influence of Saif al Islam Qaddafi, the Colonel's Westernized son. There was initial hope that Baby Assad would be likewise a modernizer--he seems not to have the courage. And there's reason to believe the mullahs can not control Iran for much longer--they appear to be trying to trade economic reform for political repression, a la China. In the meantime, regime change should be our official policy in both places. That could certainly be an element of negotiations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 22, 2004 9:15 AM
Comments

Oh yes, the European model is working so well with Iran:

Iran is unlikely to accept European incentives aimed at getting it to suspend uranium enrichment, diplomats said Thursday, raising the prospect of a showdown next month between Tehran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.

Envoys from Britain, France and Germany offered civilian nuclear technology and a trade deal to the Iranians in a private meeting at the French mission to international organizations in Vienna. But Western diplomats said they doubt Iran will back down easily.
Iran did not immediately respond to the incentives, which included the promise of lucrative trade, a light-water nuclear research reactor and the chance to buy nuclear fuel from the West.

Another idiot that doesn't understand foreign policy. Negotiations requires credible threats as well to work.

Posted by: John Thacker at October 22, 2004 9:25 AM

The US has also failed, once again, to secure the full coordination and support of interested allies, like France, Germany, Great Britain and the Soviet Union.

Mr. R. Bruce St. John should study 20th century history a little more closely especially the part where the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

Posted by: MB at October 22, 2004 9:39 AM

And there's reason to believe the mullahs can not control Iran for much longer--they appear to be trying to trade economic reform for political repression, a la China.

That program has been working in China for over twenty years now. So what exactly does "much longer" mean?

Posted by: Brandon at October 22, 2004 9:49 AM

This article is breath-takingly stupid. The author presumes that Libya surrendered its WMD program and ended support for terrorism on the basis of long-term negotiations and "meaningful dialogue."

Whereas the Q-man already has told us why he did this: "I saw what happened to Saddam and I became very afraid."

Doc Assad in Syria may well be persuaded to give up his WMD program, withdraw from Lebanon, and cease to export terrorism. That won't result from "meaningful dialogue" with the EU and UN, but rather from a realistic fear that the United States will swat him.

The EU and UN, along with a number of "foreign policy experts", have forgotten the definition of diplomacy -- the fine art of saying 'nice doggie' while looking around for a rock. Q-man became afraid that he would follow Saddam so he made a deal. Assad and the mullahs need a similar introduction to fear.

Posted by: Steve White at October 22, 2004 11:36 AM

Brandon:

China either.

Posted by: oj at October 22, 2004 11:50 AM

The US has also failed, once again, to secure the full coordination and support of interested allies, like France, Germany, Great Britain and the Soviet Union.

What annoys me about this constant refrain is the assumption that it's Bush's fault. I think the situation is more analogous to Will Kane in High Noon failing to "secure the full coordination and support of interested townspeople."

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 22, 2004 12:35 PM

PapayaSF, that was beautifully said.

Qaddafi changed his tune because he knew that he could be rolled over in a matter of minutes by the US had we chosen to. He has decided to throw in with sub-Saharan Africa instead of the buffoonish Arab League.

Posted by: Bart at October 22, 2004 4:09 PM
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