Cliff May

Opponents of sanctions and more forceful measures don’t get this. They argue that diplomacy can still succeed – despite decades of failed outreach to Iran’s rulers by both Americans and Europeans. They further argue that sanctions are an impediment to diplomacy. Suzanne Maloney, a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institute, wrote recently that “the United States cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy.” The Iranians, she added, "cannot be nudged into a constructive negotiating process by measures that exacerbate their vulnerability."

She has it exactly backward as anyone who has ever been involved in any negotiation should recognize. If we want Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to stop doing what they are doing – e.g. building nuclear weapons, supporting terrorists, threatening their neighbors, oppressing their own people – we have to do more than “nudge” them. We have to offer them something of great value.

What would Maloney have us put on the table other than an end to sanctions and no use of force -- or no further use of force? What else does she imagine they would accept in exchange for giving up the chance to possess the weapons they see as key to achieving the goals of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which include dominance of the Middle East in the short run and “a world without America” eventually, with the extermination of Israeli men, women and children somewhere along the way?

When conducted between reasonable, peace-loving people, the “art and practice of conducting negotiations” can lead to compromise and the resolution of conflicts. But when dealing with despots, people who respect only power and see even mercy as weakness, there are no talking cures. Iran’s rulers see the U.S. as materialistic, decadent, weak-willed and just plain tired of carrying the burdens of leadership. They are convinced Obama will accept what he has called “unacceptable,” that, in the end, he will allow the world’s worst dictators – and the leading sponsors of terrorism – to arm themselves with the world’s worst weapons.

A new round of diplomacy is scheduled to begin next month in Geneva. For there to be any small chance of success Iran’s rulers will need to feel pressured and vulnerable – they will need to take seriously the possibility that Americans and/or Israelis have rocks and are prepared to use them.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.