"Ahmadinejad...is even prepared for a dialogue with Washington under the right circumstances, as he stated earlier. But he is empowered now. The other leaders would support him to strike a deal with the US on the nuclear issue as long as it is in Iran's interest." Iran expert Flynt Leverett, Der Spiegel interview, June 15, 2009
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett in Politico: While I don't agree with their view that Ahamdinejad won the election without fraud ("Ahamdinejad won; get over it"), their prescription for what President Obama must do, once the internal crisis in Iran is resolved, is the larger point that we must not miss. Why so? Because the United States, Israel and our Sunni Arab allies are headed for a new and far more disastrous regional war with Iran in the coming months if we do not find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear problem:
"The Obama administration should vigorously rebut any argument against engaging Tehran following Friday’s vote. More broadly, Ahmadinejad’s victory may force Obama and his senior advisers to come to terms with the deficiencies and internal contradictions in their approach to Iran. Before the Iranian election, the Obama administration had fallen for the same illusion as many of its predecessors — the illusion that Iranian politics is primarily about personalities and finding the right personality to deal with. That is not how Iranian politics works.
The Islamic Republic is a system with multiple power centers; within that system, there is a strong and enduring consensus about core issues of national security and foreign policy, including Iran’s nuclear program and relations with the United States. Any of the four candidates in Friday’s election would have continued the nuclear program as Iran’s president; none would agree to its suspension.
Any of the four candidates would be interested in a diplomatic opening with the United States, but that opening would need to be comprehensive, respectful of Iran’s legitimate national security interests and regional importance, accepting of Iran’s right to develop and benefit from the full range of civil nuclear technology — including pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle — and aimed at genuine rapprochement.
Such an approach would also, in our judgment, be manifestly in the interests of the United States and its allies throughout the Middle East. It is time for the Obama administration to get serious about pursuing this approach — with an Iranian administration headed by the reelected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."
Flynt Leverett directs The New America Foundation’s Iran Project and teaches international affairs at Pennsylvania State university. Hillary Mann Leverett is CEO of STRATEGA, a political risk consultancy. Both worked for many years on Middle East issues for the U.S. government, including as members of the National Security Council staff.
Obama urges Iran to probe election tally as violence grows
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies, 6/16/09
U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that he was deeply troubled by post-election violence in Iran, and urged the Islamic republic to investigate voting irregularities in a way that would not result in bloodshed. Obama said he would continue pursuing tough, direct dialogue with Tehran despite deep differences with incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was officially declared the winner of last Friday's vote.
"I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television," Obama told reporters after his meeting with Berlusconi. “The democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent - all those are universal values and need to be respected," he said. Obama stressed that the United States respected Iran's sovereignty and could not judge how the election was run because neither U.S. nor international observers were present.
"The Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place," Obama said. "It's important that moving forward, whatever investigations take place are done in a way that is not resulting in bloodshed and is not resulting in people being stifled in expressing their views."
Obama said the world was inspired by Iranian demonstrators who marched against what they say was a rigged election. "To those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was," Obama said.
Obama, a Democrat who has taken criticism from his Republican opponents for trying to engage with U.S. foes, said the election results did not alter his desire for direct diplomacy with Tehran. "We will continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries and we'll see where it takes us," Obama said.
"The use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy - diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries -- is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interest."
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