My 2008 Draft White Paper on gradually restoring American-Iranian Relations

Imagine if America would have been better positioned to support the 2009 Iranian political uprisings after the presidential elections.  Imagine if the US population would have better prepared to accept the current 2015 Iranian Nuclear agreement.

Off the Strait of Hormuz

As part of my Master’s program in Middle Eastern Studies I was asked to create a notional policy paper for the Secretary of State or Defense on a key Middle Eastern topic.  I chose to think of three possibilities for opening our relations with Iran.  This was not a popular idea at the time but I was able to convince a room full of military officers that my third option was worth implementing.  Unfortunately the U.S. government has not started out as I suggest below and has launched direct government to government talks on a very controversial issue.  The Iranian Nuclear Agreement has raised fears and caused confusion world-wide so maybe in the future a slower approach that prepares the world for big-topic talks might be a better step.  Nevertheless if diplomacy was easy everyone would be doing it so let’s see where this discussion takes us and whether its agreed to or not we will all have to deal with the consequences of the negotiations.

Policy Option 3–Increase talks that build people to people relationships and prepare the nations for the next step:

PO3. Increased public diplomacy push: Use American and Iranian citizens to explain and discuss our nation’s interests through an established international series of symposiums and town hall meetings with American and Iranians and highlight what future U.S.-Iranian relations could involve and how it could improve our states, the region and the world.

Goals of policy: Short term: Establish the groundwork allow future workable executive level relations by allowing our citizens to discuss issues of importance to each state and overcome our past issues through discussion.  Spread the truth about our two countries by letting our own people share it amongst themselves.  Long term: Full normalization of U.S.-Iranian relations

Benefits: High. To the U.S.: allow the best and brightest Americans to talk to Iranians about the advantages of a U.S. relationship and learn more about Iranians then return home to educate the rest of America.  A public image makeover to the world as we can be seen as extending a large olive branch to Iran without the cost of public shame if the talks don’t create any usable outcomes.  Learn more about the Iranian regimes internal workings and avoid direct talks with terrorist sponsors by working with the people instead of the current regime.  To Iran, few benefits for the Iranian regime but they would be hard pressed not to send representatives to counter-balance the discussions that the Iranian refugees and dual citizens will bring to the table.  They may also see benefit in finding out more about true U.S. intentions in the region and for Iran specifically.  To the World it’s a chance for the peacemakers to rally behind the U.S. and Iran at the same time which is not a normal condition.  A hope for stability and security changes in the region and a possible economic respite from high oil prices.

Costs: Low. To the U.S., very little to lose by trying to start a serious dialogue, we win international praise for trying whether we succeed or not, but lose little in the way of prestige because failure can be blamed on Iran if we do our part during the symposiums.  To Iran: The regime may lose some of its credibility once the video of the conferences starts making its way into Iran through family and friends of the participants.  The overall cost of sending representatives to the symposium is they will lose control over information about U.S. intentions and the actual daily conditions in Iran.  To the World: No costs to the world community.

Probability of Success: Medium to High.

There has been a rise of a “new generation” of non-conformist Iranian power brokers who are spearheading debates within the regime about the future of Iran now is the time to send them clear signals about what a U.S.-Iranian relationship could do for them.  The likelihood of all the video and audio footage making it into Iran for each event is very high given the information sharing technology of today.  If Khomeini could use cassette tapes to spread his message of change we can utilize all the modern tools to spread the truth about future U.S.-Iranian relations even faster and farther.

How will Iran perceive the policy? The Iranian people will likely be warm to this idea, the conservative radical regime will likely be suspicious and unsupportive of the option and the reformers and pragmatic conservatives will likely support this initiative.

How will the world perceive the policy? The overall response will be one of support for both sides and we can expect assistance in our endeavor.

Why is this public diplomacy plan better than the current methods?  A recent U.S. Congressional hearing noted that our current policy is counter-productive because although Brittany Spears’ voice and lyrics may be entertaining they do not relay the story of America nor the ideas and values that we would like Iran to know about us.[i]

Policy Recommendation: Advertise and facilitate four symposiums that bring together Iranian and American people to discuss the future of U.S.-Iranian relations.  This forum will formulate a slate of topics that are deemed critical to the populations of our countries and to explore those topics for possible solutions.  The end product will be a document released to the government and public of each nation after each symposium.  This will ensure that the Iranian people and the American people understand the issues and how they can be solved.[ii]

(For a detailed explanation of this policy option see Tab B.)

[i] Mr. Royce remarks, Iran: Briefing and Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs House of Representatives. Serial No. 110-3, January 11 and 31, 2007, p65. http://www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/

[ii] As Ali Ansari correctly asserts for our “contempt to be replaced by mutual trust, familiarity must in turn be replaced by knowledge.” Introduction of Confronting Iran 2006,  6.

———————–

Full draft policy paper:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE

THROUGH: Deputy Secretary of State

FROM:           U. S. Ambassador to Iraq, Baghdad

(Prepared by Jason Howk)

Subject:          Future U.S. – Iranian Relations

Purpose: To propose changes to the United States diplomatic and security strategies towards Iran

Issue for decision

Should the United States open a dialogue with Iran?  If yes, then how?

Background

The Pahlavi Dynasty secured Iran/Persia as the West’s anchor in the Middle East, except for the brief period of Prime Minister Mossadegh which was ended by a coup that reestablished the Shah.  This coup, the Shah and other Western policies spurred a cleric named Khomeini to start a slow simmering revolution that toppled the Shah permanently in 1979.  The United States formally broke relations with Iran on 7 April 1980 over the Embassy hostage-taking, since this time the U.S. policy has been containment.[i]  The Clinton team continued this policy and added further sanctions in light of Iranian support for terrorism, subversive attempts on the Israeli-Arab peace process and its WMD program.  The Khatami election (an Iranian reformer) changed our approach slightly as the Clinton team tried to find a way to enter talks.[ii]  On more than four major attempts the Clinton advances were met with silence or complaints that they weren’t giving enough to convince the Iranians to start a meaningful dialogue.

With these rebuffs in mind, the events of September 11th, the threat from Supreme Leader Khamenei that any Iranian trying to forge relations with the U.S. would be dismissed, allegations of meddling in Afghanistan, and alleged arms sales to the PA the Congress and the Bush administration began taking a more critical look at this state that had been on the state sponsor of terrorism list for over 20 years going so far as to label them part of “the axis of evil” in 2002.  2005 saw the rise of a young conservative from the radical camp and relations have gone downhill quickly since then.[iii]  Conservatives hold the political power at the expense of the reformers but the Conservatives have many fissures that may leave room for progress through long term U.S. diplomatic maneuvers.[iv]  The Supreme Leader Khamenei currently seems to support both the pragmatist and radical conservatives for different political reasons.  Today we are seeing a backlash against the conservative radicals by all sides because they have failed to meet their campaign promises and because more than any other Middle Eastern population the Iranian people want meaningful dialogue with the U.S. not worthless rhetoric.[v] and [vi]

(For a more detailed background of U.S. – Iranian relations see Tab A.)

Analysis

According to the U.S. State Department the current Iranian behaviors that the United States finds objectionable are as follows: (1) Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, (2) Iran’s support for and involvement in international terrorism, (3) Iran’s support for violent opposition to the Middle East peace process, as well as its harmful activities particularly in Lebanon, as well as in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region, and (4) Iran’s dismal human rights record and lack of respect for its own people.

Our current policy towards Iran includes executive and congressional sanctions for many of these objectionable behaviors with an exception for Iranian access to food and medicine.  Our other major policy theme is democracy promotion which we enact through the State Department by “promoting free media, personal freedom, and a better understanding of western values and culture.”  This program was funded in 2006 for $66 million.  This effort also attempts to develop a civil society in Iran through student, athletes, and professional exchange programs.[vii]

We have recently had some lower level coordination and meetings to include activities in 2001 and 02 concerning Afghanistan and in 2003 following the Bam earthquake.  The latest set of discussions have centered on Iraq and include a meeting between foreign ministers in 2007, between Iraqi ambassadors of each country in 2007, representatives from all three countries again in 2007 and finally a third round of discussions at Ambassadorial levels as late as August 2007.  The American position continues to be that normalization of all relations cannot occur until Iran changes some of its more radical policies.  These critical issues and the historical issues of distrust and enmity need to be identified and addressed.  Iran is building power in the Middle East and Central Asia, so if the United States has positive relations with Iran we can enhance our standing in the region because Iran will have a bigger influence over the nations of the region.  A negative relationship may not only affect Iran but the entire region and lead to a further weakening of our reputation.[viii]

We have an opportunity before the June 2009 Iranian presidential elections to set the agenda for future relations in Iran and put the ball in the Iranian public’s hands.  We may not want to formally cheer for the reformers or if need be the pragmatic conservatives but we should be clear with Iran about our intentions and desires.  As detailed below our current policy is not achieving the desired results, we must change our approach and now is the right time.  These three policy options highlight our possible paths.

PO1.  Status quo: Do not open new senior level talks, continue international pressure: Continue to let low level officials meet to discuss key issue like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Stick with announced preconditions and agree to meet one-on-one only if they are met.  Continue sanctions and work to further isolate Iran using international organizations while continuing our current anemic public diplomacy campaign.

Goals of policy: Short term this should make it continually harder for the Iranian government to maintain its hostility towards the West and pursuit of WMD because of economic isolation.  Long term this could eventually lead to a regime change of the Iranian peoples choosing to install leadership that will make Iran part of the world market and society.

Benefits: Low. For the U.S. this may help us to reach our goal of stabilizing the Middle East and removing state sponsors of terrorism from power.  For Iran, this policy allows Iran to take advantage of the globalized economy to find other purchasers of their goods and other exporters because the majority of the world does not see the risks posed by Iran and are unwilling to assist us in this method.  For the World the primary short term benefit to the world from this option is the ability of some economies that traditionally would not be able to compete with the U.S. to trade with Iran in our absence.  A long term benefit to the world if this option is successful in removing a state sponsor of terrorism from power is more security in the region.

Costs:  High. The U.S. loses in the economic market and also misses and opportunity to work with a possible ally on security in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Iranians continue to lose in economic growth and quality of life satisfaction.  The world continues to suffer from tension in the region.

Probability of Success: Low.

These policies have led to the recent election of radical conservatives and have not forced any fundamental changes to the government or foreign policy and the globalized nature of the world economy provides opportunities for the Iranian economy to function despite our sanctions.[ix]

How will Iran perceive the policy? It is likely the government will continue to use our policy towards them to fuel their rally cry to fight the “great Satan” and keep themselves in power.

How will the world perceive the policy? The world will continue to provide tepid support.

Policy Recommendation: Continue to use our economic sanctions and democracy reform promotion tools to push for political change.  We must for the safety of our military continue to meet on the local level with the Iranians to coordinate security issues and try to stem the flow of fighters and lethal weapons into Iraq and Afghanistan.

PO2. Open direct executive level talks: Directly offer to have talks with Iranian leadership

Goals of policy: Short term goals would be to normalize relations through a series of negotiations over critical security issues and historical misunderstandings/mistakes.  Long term goals would include full economic, political and social relations restoration.

Benefits: High.  For the U.S. a possibility for improved security in Iraq and Afghanistan and improved stability in the Middle East region, economic growth through new markets and improved transit capabilities in Central Asia and a chance to promote the America that we want the Iranians to see instead of the current regime’s version.  For Iran: while the regime earns no benefits except possible reelection for the leader who seals the seal, the Iranian people a chance to be free to travel and see America for themselves and economic growth plus a reduction in unemployment.  The world gets stability that will allow current resources to be utilized in other regions, likely relief from oil prices that are partly being driven up by regional instability.

Costs: High.  For the U.S.: breaking over 30 years of U.S. counter-terrorism policy against dealing with terrorists or sponsors of terrorism, likely political suicide for any president that makes the first step (although a McCain type could likely survive the attempt while a inexperienced unproven like Obama might not), possibly emboldening other regimes with hostility towards the U.S. to start building nuclear weapons to prod better relations from the U.S.  For Iran: The regime would lose a valuable enemy that serves to keep them in power and possible decrease in their power over Islamic radicals in the gulf because Iran will be seen as giving in to U.S. desires if the U.S. acts first.  For the world: Economic losses for some states that are trading legally or illegally with Iran if the U.S.-Iranian markets flourish.

Probability of Success: Low.

Many Americans and Iranians would appreciate all the benefits that could come from this arrangement, but powerful minorities in both states that would fight this type of reconciliation; additionally no one, not even the Iranians, know who is in charge of their foreign policy and this makes direct talks frustrating because even if you talk to the President or Prime Minister it is not a guarantee that the meeting’s results will be of any use.[x]  This is not to say that the effort is worthless, only that it is not a surefire solution to our impasse even if talks are positive.

How will Iran perceive the policy?  The Iranian regime would likely use this offer to somehow rally the Iranian people to their support against the great Satan that is trying to westernize (i.e. send to hell) the Iranian people.

How will the world perceive the policy? This would be a positive sign to most nations in the world that the United States is willing to compromise with a long standing enemy to better the security of the region and economy of the world.  It is also possible that some states will see this as a sign of weakness because the United States is compromising one of its well known rules against dealing with terrorist supporters.

Policy Recommendation: Use every available diplomatic tool to make the first meeting a successful one.  We must leave the meeting with a framework in hand that outlines the compromises for both countries that need to be reached and clear penalties for failure to abide by the agreement.  This could be a fragile meeting so it would be logical to involve other parties in the meetings to ensure each nation has allies that can advise it and ensure it sticks to the agreed upon framework.  This option will be unworkable if the framework does not result in immediate cessation of harm to our military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan because our American voters will not tolerate any compromise on the safety of their greatest national treasure.[xi]  The issues listed as objectionable acts of the Iranians would be the primary issues to resolve in addition to historical mistakes by each nation.

PO3. Increased public diplomacy push: Use American and Iranian citizens to explain and discuss our nation’s interests through an established international series of symposiums and town hall meetings with American and Iranians and highlight what future U.S.-Iranian relations could involve and how it could improve our states, the region and the world.

Goals of policy: Short term: Establish the groundwork allow future workable executive level relations by allowing our citizens to discuss issues of importance to each state and overcome our past issues through discussion.  Spread the truth about our two countries by letting our own people share it amongst themselves.  Long term: Full normalization of U.S.-Iranian relations

Benefits: High. To the U.S.: allow the best and brightest Americans to talk to Iranians about the advantages of a U.S. relationship and learn more about Iranians then return home to educate the rest of America.  A public image makeover to the world as we can be seen as extending a large olive branch to Iran without the cost of public shame if the talks don’t create any usable outcomes.  Learn more about the Iranian regimes internal workings and avoid direct talks with terrorist sponsors by working with the people instead of the current regime.  To Iran, few benefits for the Iranian regime but they would be hard pressed not to send representatives to counter-balance the discussions that the Iranian refugees and dual citizens will bring to the table.  They may also see benefit in finding out more about true U.S. intentions in the region and for Iran specifically.  To the World it’s a chance for the peacemakers to rally behind the U.S. and Iran at the same time which is not a normal condition.  A hope for stability and security changes in the region and a possible economic respite from high oil prices.

Costs: Low. To the U.S., very little to lose by trying to start a serious dialogue, we win international praise for trying whether we succeed or not, but lose little in the way of prestige because failure can be blamed on Iran if we do our part during the symposiums.  To Iran: The regime may lose some of its credibility once the video of the conferences starts making its way into Iran through family and friends of the participants.  The overall cost of sending representatives to the symposium is they will lose control over information about U.S. intentions and the actual daily conditions in Iran.  To the World: No costs to the world community.

Probability of Success: Medium to High.

There has been a rise of a “new generation” of non-conformist Iranian power brokers who are spearheading debates within the regime about the future of Iran now is the time to send them clear signals about what a U.S.-Iranian relationship could do for them.  The likelihood of all the video and audio footage making it into Iran for each event is very high given the information sharing technology of today.  If Khomeini could use cassette tapes to spread his message of change we can utilize all the modern tools to spread the truth about future U.S.-Iranian relations even faster and farther.

How will Iran perceive the policy? The Iranian people will likely be warm to this idea, the conservative radical regime will likely be suspicious and unsupportive of the option and the reformers and pragmatic conservatives will likely support this initiative.

How will the world perceive the policy? The overall response will be one of support for both sides and we can expect assistance in our endeavor.

Why is this public diplomacy plan better than the current methods?  A recent U.S. Congressional hearing noted that our current policy is counter-productive because although Brittany Spears’ voice and lyrics may be entertaining they do not relay the story of America nor the ideas and values that we would like Iran to know about us.[xii]

Policy Recommendation: Advertise and facilitate four symposiums that bring together Iranian and American people to discuss the future of U.S.-Iranian relations.  This forum will formulate a slate of topics that are deemed critical to the populations of our countries and to explore those topics for possible solutions.  The end product will be a document released to the government and public of each nation after each symposium.  This will ensure that the Iranian people and the American people understand the issues and how they can be solved.[xiii]

(For a detailed explanation of this policy option see Tab B.)

Final Policy Recommendation

Based on the current difficulties facing the Middle East especially Iraq and Afghanistan the United States should remove option one from our discussion and focus on option two or three.  When placed in a domestic context the United States at this time should pursue option three in hopes of establishing a better state of affairs for starting direct executive level talks with Iran.

Option one has brought us little success because globalization negates the power of economic sanctions and our current public diplomacy message is not getting through.

Option two is unlikely to succeed without proper preparation of the public in both states.

Option Three will provide the best opportunity for the American and Iranian people to learn about each other and prepare for future positive relations. One of the primary issues preventing the resolution of the U.S.–Iran impasse are the domestic situations of each nation, this option seeks to overcome this problem.  Failure to diffuse the rhetoric and myths that abound will hamstring any direct talks between our national leaders because our own constituents and power holders may not support our efforts and doom the process of reconciliation to failure.

No option is without risk but the option with the most benefits and least risks may be the best choice at this stage of our relations.  Neither charging ahead quickly nor standing motionless will help us to re-develop a useful relationship with a state that occupies critical geopolitical space.  Stability in the Middle East may ultimately depend on the state of our relations with each individual state until the Israeli-Palestinian issue is resolved, now is the time to engage with Iranians to establish a framework for reconciliation that will ultimately benefit the entire region.

Tab A.

Background

The Iranian-American relations have passed through many stages since the End of World War II.  The Pahlavi Dynasty secured Iran/Persia as Britain’s and America’s anchor in the Middle East, except for the brief period of Prime Minister Mossadegh which was ended by a coup that reestablished the Shah, until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that severed the U.S.-Iranian relations until this day.  From the end of World War II until 1978 only four presidential and 13 secretariat level visits were made to Iran/Persia by the United States.  Significant among the early relations between our nations was the role that America and Britain played in removing the nationalist Prime Minister Mossadegh in favor of the Shah.  This event and other Western policies spur a young cleric named Khomeini to start a slow simmering revolution that topples the Shah for good in 1979.

The beginning of the Iranian revolution is the official end of normalized relations between Iran and America.  The United States formally broke relations with Iran on 7 April 1980, since this time the “de facto” U.S. policy has been containment.  American Hostages were taken during the Iranian revolution when the U.S. Embassy was seized against international law.  The U.S. military failed in its attempt to free the hostages and they remained in Iranian custody until President Reagan took office 444 days later.

The Iran-Iraq war again brought our two nations into contact as the U.S. played the two gulf powers against each other and included Iran in an elaborate scheme to fund anti-communist forces in Central America and somehow earning the release of new American hostages in Lebanon.  Another critical event in that inhibits our good relations was the 1988 accidental shoot down of an Iranian passenger jet in the Middle East by the United States.  Although the U.S. has paid Iran $61.8 million in compensation for the families of the 248 victims this issue surely still bears on the situation.

During the Clinton administration further isolation of Iran was part of its policy of dual containment of both Iran and Iraq.  Further sanctions added under Clinton were in response to Iranian support for terrorism, subversive attempts on the Israeli-Arab peace process and for its weapons of mass destruction program.

The Khatami election is now considered by many to be an opportunity missed by the Clintons because an opening appeared and we failed to press the issue of dialogue towards something tangible.  President Clinton made this first step in 1997 when he spoke just six days after his election saying he had “never been pleases about the estrangements between the people of the United States and the people of Iran.”  Later the U.S. offered official dialogue to Iran with no preconditions and Khatami responded with an offer to increase exchanges between our people but not official talks.  Secretary Albright again called for measures that would help draw a roadmap to normalized relations without a response.  In 2000 the Secretary once more reached out to the Iranians by admitting (and some say nearly apologizing) for U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup, loosening sanctions and even getting the president to attend a UN speech given by Khatami.  Iran said they welcomed the olive branch but it wasn’t enough to convince the Iranians to open a meaningful dialogue.  It seems the Clinton administration did more than could be expected but was not rewarded for their efforts.  It is with these rebuffs in mind, the events of September 11th, the threat from Supreme Leader Khamenei that any Iranian trying to forge relations with the U.S. would be dismissed, allegations of meddling in Afghanistan, and alleged arms sales to the PA that the Congress and Bush administration began taking a more careful look at Iranian intentions going so far as to label them part of “the axis of evil” in January of 2002.

From this point on Iran saw all the reform and democracy programs pointed at them as seeds for another regime change at the hands of the Americans.

2005 saw the rise of a young conservative from the radical camp and relations have gone downhill quickly since then.

In the summer of 2006 Iran expressed “its readiness for long-term cooperation in security, economic and political and energy areas in order to achieve sustainable security in the region and long-term energy security”[xiv] but little has been done to reach towards this goal on either side.

What’s happening in Iran today?  Where do their interests lie?  The current split between political power holders is the old versus the young—but they are both conservatives neither is liberal.  Amongst the new conservatives there is a further split between the radicals and pragmatists.

Political radicals like Ahmadinejad and a small clerical segment incited by people like Ayatollah Mh. Taqi Mesbah-Yazdithe are powerful and wield their strength through associations and alliances.  They view the United States as the great Satan because of their treatment by the U.S. and the international community during the Iran-Iraq war.  They are interested in self-reliance and want to avoid any “cultural contamination” or exploitation from the United States.[xv] They view America as a declining superpower and hold it responsible for all Iran’s past woes.

Ahmadinejad will say anything to rally allies to his side from anywhere in the region in his efforts to make Iran the dominant power in the Middle East.[xvi]   He and the other Iranian leaders view the acquisition of nuclear weapons as the final level of military superiority needed to finally knock off the U.S. from its regional military dominating force perch.

The pragmatists are more concerned about nationalism than Islamic ideology.  These people drew different lessons from the Iran-Iraq war than the radicals did.  They talk about curbing outlandish behavior and following international mores to ensure Iran reaches its full potential.  They also see restored relations with the U.S. as a key part of their rise to power in the region because as purely an enemy the United States will hinder them.

Its leaders are men like Ali Larijani the head of the Supreme National Security Council and the Iranian naval commander.  Recently they have risen to power in the security and intelligence circles due to close ties to the older clerics and the supreme leader.  Many of these other conservatives did well in the December 2006 elections.

The reformers are the other half of the political reality in Iran and they are not as strong as the two conservative elements.  In the spring 2008 election they won more seats in the parliament than they held during the last session but they are still in the minority when compared to the 70% hold of the conservatives on seats.  The reformist who allied themselves with ex-President Khatami agree with the pragmatic conservatives in questioning the style and antics of President Ahmadinejad.  They ultimately cannot make a large difference with their current numbers because even if they pass reformist legislation through and alliance it must get through the conservative supreme council for approval.

The last critical element is the supreme leader who is currently ex-president Khamenei who is seen by some as indecisive but ideologically driven.  Right now he seems to support both the pragmatists who are pushing for negotiations with the U.S. and with the radical who he counts on in his power base because he lacks some of the necessary clerical credentials that the supreme leaders should have.

TAB B.

Detailed Policy Recommendation PO3

Advertise and facilitate four symposiums that bring together Iranian and American people to discuss the future of U.S.-Iranian relations.

Purpose: To formulate a slate of topics that are deemed critical to the populations of our countries and to explore those topics for possible solutions.  The end product will be a four part document released to the government and public of each nation after each symposium.  This will ensure that the Iranian people and the American people understand the issues and how they can be solved.  (Massive release of information through all forms of media and communication)

Length of process:  It can be done over a four month period or a four quarter period depending on the urgency of establishing relations.

Where: The first two day symposium will be held in Switzerland, a neutral site that will probably increase the number of Iranians who will be allowed to attend.  The second event will be held in the United States in a large enough city to offer the Iranians many opportunities to see interact with Americans but is also close enough to the country to allow them to see rural life as well.  The third event will be held in Oman to bring the Omani leadership into a role of peacemaker because of their excellent relations with both nations and close proximity to Iran.  This site will also allow Americans to observe a safe and modernizing Arab/Muslim state that has had a long relationship with Iran.  The final event would be held in Iran to bring the process full circle and ensure that the Iranian people see for themselves the progress that has been made during the other three symposiums.

Discussion plan:  The first meeting will allow the Iranian people to set an agenda for what they want to discuss during the events to ensure they feel like they are an integral part of the process.  The following meetings will be adjusted to ensure that all major points are fully evaluated.

Attendees (both in the audience and involved in roundtables): interested public, business professionals (large and small), academics, scientists, health care specialists, politicians, military, police, firemen, diplomats, legal experts, agriculture and livestock experts, environmental experts, government experts that can explain their nations systems, teachers, athletes, cooks, and religious leaders.  The hope is that the majority of the attendees stay in place for all four rounds of talks to ensure a continuity of friendship and trust amongst them.  All U.S. delegates will be screened to ensure they are not members/representatives of any domestic or international special interest group bent on scuttling the talks.  (The U.S. should anticipate that Iran may screen and specifically choose some citizens who will relay the hard-line message of its ruling party, we need to ensure members of our delegation are well educated in countering these messages during discussions to keep the talks on track.)

Facilitators: We will use members of the best think tanks in the world to help our attendees develop workable discussion outlines and ensure the process stays on track.  Care must be taken to screen these key players to ensure groups with an interest in seeing the events fail are removed.  Facilitators from the U.S. should be screened to ensure they do not serve any particular lobby agenda and to ensure they are capable of countering any planted attendees from Iran or the U.S.  (Switzerland will develop and facilitate the Swiss and U.S. symposiums while Oman will be responsible for the Omani and Iranian site symposiums.)

Sample discussion topics:

How the governments work, Iraq and Afghanistan, current economic outlook and future economic outlook if relations were normalized, medical standards and breakthroughs, justice systems, individual human rights, terrorism, energy (oil/solar/nuclear/wind), trade, religion and tolerance, sports, culture, regional security, history of U.S. and Iran, history of Israel and Palestine, the holocaust and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, food, music, literature, tourism, technology, education opportunities and standards,

Other events during the symposiums:

Luncheons, keynote speakers, informal dinners, social events, and tours of the countries they are being held in.  Family events: where Americans and Iranians can introduce their families and friends to their counterparts in the U.S. and Iranian based symposiums.

Topics of discussion for National leaders when they meet: (these do not have to be slated for roundtable discussions at the symposiums but will likely come up and should be analyzed during the symposium if the opportunity arises)

-Nuclear fuel/arms

-Israel

-Terrorism

-Hezbollah

-Hamas

-Economic issues-Trade, Refinery capacity

-1953 Coup

-Embassy hostage taking

-Iraq

-Afghanistan

-Oil

-Regional security

-Iranian Airliner shoot down

[i] Takeyh, Ray. “Time for Détente with Iran,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2007, 19.

[ii] Kemp, Geoffrey. “The Persian Gulf Remains the Strategic Prize,” Survival, Winter 1998-99, 145-6.

[iii] Katzman, Kenneth. “Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses,”  CRS Report for Congress, 7 March 2008, 5-7.

[iv] Nasr, Vali. “The Conservative Wave Rolls On,” Journal of Democracy, October 2005, 15-18.

[v] According to an ongoing Gallup Poll: “In the Middle East, Iranians are most likely to say the interaction between the West and the Muslim world is important, at 70 percent, followed by Turks at 64 percent,” http://www.saudi-us-relations.org/articles/2008/ioi/080606-world-poll.html

[vi] Maggioni, Monica. “Ahmadinejobless,” Foreign Policy Web Exclusive, July 2007

[vii] U.S. State Dept Website http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5314.htm

[viii] Nasr and Takeyh. “The Costs of Containing Iran” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2008, 90-1.

[ix] Takeyh. “Time for Détente with Iran,” 19.

[x] A common belief, which was backed up by Professor Ahmad Ghoreishi on 4 June 2008, NPS Lecture.

[xi] Ottoway, Brown, et al. “the New Middle East” Carnegie Endowment 2008.

[xii] Mr. Royce remarks, Iran: Briefing and Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs House of Representatives. Serial No. 110-3, January 11 and 31, 2007, p65. http://www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/

[xiii] As Ali Ansari correctly asserts for our “contempt to be replaced by mutual trust, familiarity must in turn be replaced by knowledge.” Introduction of Confronting Iran 2006,  6.

[xiv] Takeyh. “A Time for Détente with Iran,” 22.

[xv] Ibid, 24.

[xvi] Ibid.

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