When Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in New York next week to address the UN General Assembly, he will do so with little power at home and as one of the last remaining authoritarian figures in the region. International pressure continues to mount against Iran as questions about its nuclear program go unanswered and its internal crackdown persists. Iran is clearly feeling this pressure. In recent days, Iran has signaled that it may be open to discussing nuclear issues that it had previously refused to address and has launched an all-out "charm offensive" against additional pressure and isolation.
A unified international coalition of representatives from the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, France, England and Germany sat down today in Geneva with the Government of Iran to begin a new round of talks about Iran's nuclear program. Against the backdrop of a troubled nuclear program and increasing internal political pressure on the regime, Iran comes to the talks under significantly more pressure than the last time similar discussions took place 14 months ago. The two track policy approach - pressure and engagement - has created a new window for diplomacy to take effect. Yet despite the increasing effectiveness of this approach - or perhaps because of it - opponents of this policy are increasingly calling for dangerous, counter-productive, and self defeating military actions for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. These calls, if heeded, would undercut American national security in the Middle East, harm our allies, and damage our country's ability to sustainably resolve this complex issue. Now is the moment to build on the momentum that the increasing international pressure has provided for serious diplomacy, to take advantage of political strains inside Iran, and to reassert broader American security goals. Now is not the moment to ramp up reckless talk of war.
As world leaders gather at the United Nations this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is up to his usual tricks. By using demagoguery to inspire fear and controversy, Iran's president is hoping to distract the international community from the internal Iranian political dynamics that are challenging his leadership. The combination of controversies brought on by Ahmadinejad's clumsy power grabs, turmoil in the Iranian economy and a nuclear program beset with technical problems and rising public doubts makes it clear that a large gulf separates the president's rhetoric and reality. These dynamics provide a crucial window of opportunity for the U.S. and its partners to press their advantage and to resume active negotiations with Iran over its nuclear activities. American national security leaders from across the political spectrum agree that the U.S. would "lose nothing" by pressing to restart talks.
Tonight President Obama will commemorate the close of America's combat mission in Iraq and the redeployment of nearly 90,000 U.S. troops, marking the culmination of years of effort to replace the failed invasion strategy with one that better serves core American interests. America's mission in Iraq is changing to a civilian-led partnership, though thousands of troops will remain to advise and assist Iraqi forces. Challenges remain - the stalled government formation process, as well as persistent acts of violence - but these are problems that demand Iraqi-led solutions. These challenges will not be helped by heavy-handed intrusion on Iraq's political scene. And they certainly will not be helped by keeping American troops in the country indefinitely. The new effort underway in Iraq points toward a more effective focus for US policy: a genuine partnership with Iraqis built around diplomacy, trade, and development, as well as security. This approach stands the best chance of building an enduring strategic relationship that aligns core U.S. interests with our resources and values
Iran's announcement today of an agreement with Turkey and Brazil to ship a portion of its uranium stockpile abroad left much unclear: as the deal stands, it does not address the full range of concerns put forward by the U.S. What is clear, however, is that the Iranian regime is under intense pressure coming from both external and internal sources. Externally, from multilateral efforts to place sanctions on the regime for failing to comply to internationally supported demands regarding its nuclear activities. Internally, from the domestic unrest dating back to last year's controversial Presidential elections. This latest measure demonstrates how much the regime wishes to escape this mounting pressure.
The U.S. request for Pakistani assistance in investigating connections between the failed Times Square bombing and militants operating within its borders highlights the vital link between partnerships abroad and security at home. A year ago, the Administration set out to rebuild what had been anemic counter-terrorism cooperation at best, by improving the broader tenor of U.S.-Pakistani relations. As the U.S. looks to Pakistan to help unravel the Times Square plot and prevent similar attacks in the future, it highlights a larger reality: effectively combating terrorism is a global challenge, which requires a cooperative response.