Former US peace envoy Dennis Ross (L), seen here with late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2000.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Dennis Ross, the veteran Mideast hand and former peace envoy, criticized his former boss, US President Barack Obama, for “not being tough enough” with Iran in light of the stalled nuclear talks and the recent coup in Yemen.
Writing for the online Politico newsmagazine, Ross argues that American allies in the region are growing more apprehensive over what they see as growing Iranian influence in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, while Washington is perceived to be on the retreat.
“These two simultaneous developments - the deadlock in nuclear talks and Iran’s aggressive moves in the region - are not coincidental,” wrote Ross, who co-authored the piece with foreign policy analysts Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh. “They are intimately linked, and that should be a lesson for President Obama: The nuclear deadlock cannot be broken unless Washington reengages in the myriad of conflicts and civil wars plaguing the region, particularly now that Yemen is vulnerable and the Saudi royal family is in a state of turmoil following the death of King Abdullah on Thursday.”
Ross took Obama and his European allies to task for granting the Iranians “a generous catalogue of concessions” during the course of the nuclear talks that have lasted well over a year. The former peace envoy says that the Western powers have “conceded to Iranian enrichment [of uranium], agreed that Tehran need not scale back the number of its centrifuges significantly or dismantle any facilities and could have an industrial-size program after passage of a period of time.”
“The Iranians have, during the course of the ten years of negotiations, grown accustomed to having their interlocutors return to the table with concessions meant to meet their mandates while offering only limited compromises of their own,” Ross and his colleagues wrote.
Ross notes that “Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to signal that Iran can live without an agreement,” thus emboldening his negotiators to “press for more concessions while not offering any of their own.”
What the Obama administration needs to do in the face of Iranian hubris is to engage in “political warfare” by drumming up public opinion against Tehran’s human rights record and its efforts to prop up Syrian President Bashar Assad, Ross argues.
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“Historically, the Islamic Republic has adjusted its behavior only when its leaders saw high costs in not doing so,” he wrote. “Iran needs to see that we are not so concerned about reaching a deal on the nuclear issue that we are indifferent to its behavior in the region.”
Ross says that American negotiators should “not be afraid to walk away from the table” if the Iranians continue to play hardball.
Instead of more concessions, the West ought to make “Iran’s leaders see they have more to lose than gain by not concluding” an agreement, according to Ross.
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