Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is there a limit to human stupidity?

Thomas Pickering, Lee Hamilton, General Michael Hayden among former top officials who back report claiming US policies 'may have narrowed the options for dealing with Iran by hardening the regime's resistance to pressure'
Yitzhak Benhorin
04.19.13, 08:12 / Israel News
WASHINGTON - A panel of former senior American officials and outside experts expressed their support on Thursday for a document which calls on President Barack Obama to reconsider the harsh economic sanctions imposed on Iran.

The report, published by a panel called the Iran Project, said US policies "may have slowed but they have not stopped the advancement of Iran's nuclear program. They have not led to a breakthrough in nuclear talks (sanctions have weakened Iran's economy but not yet led to changed policies or actions); nor have they improved Iran's human rights practices."

According to the paper, titled "Strategic options for Iran: Balancing pressure with diplomacy," US policies "may have narrowed the options for dealing with Iran by hardening the regime's resistance to pressure… After 30 years of sanctioning and trying to isolate Iran, it seems doubtful that pressure alone will change the decision of Iran's leaders… A strengthened diplomatic track that includes the promise of sanctions relief in exchange for verifiable cooperation could help to end the standoff and produce a nuclear deal."

'Balance has been misaligned.' Military procession in Iran (Photo: AFP)

The former officials, including several who recently left the Obama administration, said in the letter of support that they "applaud the drafters of this paper and their goal of contributing an objective, nonpartisan analysis to a complex and important policy discussion." However, they stressed they "do not necessarily agree with every word in this properly detailed and balanced report."

Among those who signed the letter of support are Thomas Pickering, one of the most revered ambassadors in the history of US diplomacy; former Congressman Lee Hamilton, who served as the vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission; General Michael Hayden, who headed the CIA during George W. Bush's presidency; and former Republican senator Richard Lugar.

Pickering, who served as ambassador to Israel, among other countries, told the New York Times "I fundamentally believe that the balance between sanctions and diplomacy has been misaligned," and urged Obama to review the covert program against Iran – which has included computer sabotage of its nuclear facilities – to "stop anything that is peripheral, that is not buying us much time" in slowing Iran’s progress.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that the administration was sticking with its approach.

"We just completed a series of diplomatic talks" with America's allies in dealing with Tehran, she said, "including three recent rounds of meetings that included Iran." She added that a "dual track approach of rigorous sanctions and serious negotiations is the right approach. However, the onus is on Iran to take the next steps and move the process forward."