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Trita Parsi: Give the Mullahs what they want

Hassan Dai, 12.29.2011

Trita Parsi wrote that economic and security incentives are necessary to convince Tehran to behave differently but they are not sufficient. The US should accept Iranian influence in the region and share the Middle East with the Mullahs


A group of retired diplomats including some former European ambassadors to Iran have joined Trita Parsi to ask President Obama to reinvigorate direct diplomatic engagement with Iran. Parsi is the president of NIAC, an organization considered by many Iranians as the lobby for the Mullahs' regime.

These retired diplomats have not clarified what exactly they mean by new round of diplomacy with Iran as they have been personally involved in long and futile negotiations with Tehran that only profited the regime to advance its nuclear program. How could new negotiations be different from the past to convince Tehran to behave differently?

While the former diplomats are reluctant to talk about this issue, Trita Parsi by contrast has been very eloquent to explain what the US should do to transform futile negotiations into a real bargain.

In 2008, while Parsi participated in secret negotiations between Iranians and Americans (including William Perry, Obama's representative) he explained what US should give the Mullahs to resolve the nuclear impasse. In an article titled: "Can the U.S. and Iran Share the Middle East?" he declared that economic and security incentives are necessary but not sufficient because the Mullahs want more and the US should abide. He wrote:

"The discussions in Washington regarding any potential opening to Tehran have centered on boosting economic incentives in hope that larger economic carrots would compel a change in Iranian behavior. At times, the idea of offering security guarantees has been considered in an effort to deprive Iran of incentives to develop a nuclear deterrence against the U.S. Though both of these components may be necessary to put U.S.-Iran relations on a different footing, they are likely not sufficient. The notion that the U.S.-Iran standoff can be resolved solely through economic incentives and limited security guarantees is premised on the realities of yesteryear's Middle East. Current facts on the ground are quite different - Iran's regional influence is unquestionable and rolling Iran back out of Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and perhaps even Gaza may no longer be realistic. The question is no longer - if it ever was - what economic incentives are required to change Iranian behavior. Rather, to reach a settlement with Iran that could help stabilize Iraq, prevent a Taliban resurrection in Afghanistan, reach a political deal in Lebanon and create a better climate to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S. must arguably grant Iran a role in the region and begin focusing on how to influence Iranian behavior rather than how to roll back Iranian influence. Neither Washington nor Tehran can wish the other away. While the United States' days in Iraq may be numbered, it is not likely to leave the entire Middle East anytime soon. Nor can Washington continue to design policies and arrangements in the region based on the notion that Iran can be neglected and excluded. Sooner or later, Iran and the U.S. must learn how to share the region."

Three years have passed since Parsi detailed the Mullahs' demands. The region has changed and the regime has also changed. It is wise to ask Trita Parsi to inform the readers with an updated list of Mullas's demands.