Tough talk by the U.S. and Iran -- sometimes about nukes -- has taken many turns over the past three decades, but there has been some relaxing of the tensions recently.
Iran signed a good-faith agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to allow inspectors broad access to its nuclear facilities. Signaling change, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani halted expansion of Iran's uranium enrichment capacity since his election three months ago, according to U.N. inspection reports.
Sometimes -- as we saw in the 1990s with killer sanctions on Iraq -- certain sanctions are hardest on the most vulnerable, innocent children and other civilians. To a large measure, this is the case vis-a-vis Iran. Peace scholars have been pushing for alternative options with Iran, backed by hard data and decades of conflict management experience, since the inception of the conflict. These alternatives have remained largely unnoticed amid the cyclical escalation/de-escalation of war drumming from both sides of the aisle.
Yet, what has always been available are conflict management methods unexamined by our decision-makers. In developing potential options for adversarial nations, the U.S. government has the Joint Chiefs and security studies hawks on speed dial. Thus, the U.S. stumbles into war after war, informed of the full range of options from A to B. Attack or do nothing. Demonstrate a resolve to kill or show cowardice. It's a wonder we haven't nuked Canada.
In the spirit of sharing what we've learned in our obscure field of Peace and Conflict Studies, let's think about some possible measures right now vis-a-vis Iran:
--Guarantee no-first-use of U.S. military force against Iran
As long as Iranian people and their government fear preemptive military attack by the U.S. there will be strong motivation for development of nuclear weapons, and it will be easier for Iranian leaders to justify sacrifices, including resolve to endure crippling sanctions.
--Cease military aid to Israel
Even Israeli moderates remain belligerent toward Iran, reserving and openly referencing preemptive military attack as an option. This keeps Iranian moderates on the defensive, emboldens hardliners, and continually prompts the average Iranian to hate Israel and its sponsor, the U.S. Stopping U.S military aid to Israel brings the region many steps closer to peace, helps take the target off the U.S., and prompts Israel to honestly negotiate its relationships constructively.
Now that declassified documents and an acknowledgment by President Barack Obama have formally recognized the CIA's role in the 1953 overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, a formal apology should be made for this outrageous transgression. A simple apology without qualification, equivocation, justification or even explanation is best.
--Put some U.S. nukes on the table
Make the demand that Iran cease its nuclear ambitions linked to an offer to dismantle (for example) 200 U.S. nuclear weapons, with each party subject to IAEA inspections. Treat Iran like a real country, not a minor player of which we can make demands we won't ourselves honor.
The two countries should each invite the other to open an embassy with the guarantee of the safety of the personnel that is backed by enormous collateral. The 2011 Obama initiative to maintain an online embassy is a good gesture and not enough; it is time for reciprocity and advancements.