Originally posted on Dallas News
By Honorary Board Member, Thomas R. Pickering
Our new president will face many tough challenges in devising a strategy to assure America's security. He will be the first since 1979 who will not have to immediately devise a strategy to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
The nuclear agreement with Iran provides strong assurance that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years. China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. (the so-called P5+1) came together to achieve this objective by negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. Iran without a nuclear weapon is far less threatening to Israel, the region and the U.S.
This ground breaking agreement does not by any means suggest that Iran will disappear as a concern for the U.S. in the Middle East. While U.S. and Iranian approaches are parallel on some regional issues, on others they are sorely conflicted. Whether America's relations with Iran will be confrontational or cooperative depends on how we both choose to deal with the issues between us. Here are four ways the Trump administration could keep relations steady.
1. Our new president could and should work with our P5+1 partners to ensure that Iran continues to comply with its commitments. It has done so up until now based on all reports from International Atomic Energy Agency, which inspects Iran's entire nuclear program regularly and intensively.
2. The new U.S. administration should further explore ways to bring Iran into accord to resolve regional conflicts where there are some common objectives:
-Collaborate to defeat a common enemy, ISIS;
-Push Iran to continue to help press the Iraqi government to include more Sunni Iraqis in recovering and rebuilding the Sunni areas being retaken from ISIS;
-Expand collaboration in Afghanistan where U.S. and Iranian objectives are closely aligned against a Taliban government.
3. Continue to seek common objectives with Iran and others to establish a cease fire in Syria and work toward an interim government, a new constitution and elections. There is no military solution to that proxy-supported civil war. Political cooperation between the U.S. and Iran, as well as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, is key to bring along the disparate and divided Syrian parties.
4. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran is one of the most important non-proliferation agreements in decades. It can serve as a model for setting new world standards for better control of uranium enrichment. This includes limits on the amount and quality of enriched material and the number and quality of centrifuges used to enrich it. Such an arrangement would meet Trump's goal of tightening the Iran deal by instituting these limitations for all countries, beginning with the P5 declared nuclear states, on a permanent, not 15-year, basis. With enhanced inspection and multilateral participation in ownership of peaceful nuclear programs, such approaches could provide a first step to improving Russian-U.S. cooperation and set a safe pattern for all future enrichers such as Argentina, Brazil, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
If Iran continues to comply with its agreed-upon obligations, a new American administration may be able to make progress by taking a longer view. It can and should employ diplomatic options based on our strength, the cooperation of our negotiating partners and worldwide interest and support to gain additional positive results from the nuclear deal.
In these early stages of the implementation of the plan of action with Iran, many Americans will correctly remain skeptical about Iran's intentions. The U.S. and other nations will face continued tensions, disagreements and even confrontation with Iran -- particularly the region in turmoil.
During this uncertain period, a new U.S. president will have to collaborate closely with the P5+1 countries, Israel and the Gulf states to design strategies to reinforce the chances of Iran becoming a country we can work with. Iran is a major regional power; no conflict there can be resolved by isolating Iran. These diplomatic efforts will always have to be balanced by establishing clear limits on what the U.S. and its partners find tolerable for Iran's actions in the region. Sailing these seas will be rough and challenging but bring us to a safer port.