Former US negotiator: Iran deal could be a good first step

Abraham D. Sofaer served the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
NEW YORK – The recent agreement reached on Iran’s nuclear program could be a first step toward controlling the Iranian regime, Abraham D. Sofaer, of the Hoover Institute at California’s Stanford University, says.
However, he told The Jerusalem Post, this could happen only if the negotiating team focuses on the broader picture – and unfortunately both negotiators and the world seem fixated solely on the nuclear issue, meaning an agreement could prove useless in the long run.
“The US will fail to deal effectively with the Iranian nuclear threat if it attempts only to negotiate with the aim of allowing Iran to have a ‘peaceful’ nuclear program,” Sofaer said. “Iran is a fundamentally radical regime that has successfully attacked the US directly and through surrogates for over 30 years, and it will remain a grave threat to international security unless it is convinced to give up its radical agenda.” The author of the 2012 book Taking on Iran: Strength, Diplomacy, and the Iranian Threat, Sofaer served the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was a legal adviser to the State Department and negotiated with both Iran and the Soviet Union between 1985 to 1990.
“It’s a mistake to have negotiations with Iran that are limited to just their nuclear capacity,” Sofaer said, explaining that the theories about Iranian plans to create a large, Shia-controlled region in the Middle East were more than just rumors.
“It’s an effort to expand their influence. And many states try to do that. But it is influence tinged with highly ambitious religious motivations that have actually set off a fire in the Middle East, which is consuming people and creating massive tragedies,” he said.
“Dealing with Iran as though their nuclear technology is an isolated problem, when all around you bombs are literally going off – Syria is imploding, Libya continues to be torn apart, Iraq is literally being torn apart by Iranian-based influence – it’s just foolhardy,” he added.
Sofaer applauded what the P5+1 negotiators had so far accomplished and, unlike Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, believed the talks were somewhat constructive.
Yet the West also must confront Iran about its domestic human rights abuses and its heavy military involvement in other countries, either directly or through actors like Hezbollah.
“Surely we don’t want to see a regime in Iran continue to deprive their citizens of the most fundamental human rights,” he said. “We can’t just deal with one dimension of their unacceptability.” During negotiations with the USSR, Sofaer said, the US succeeded in both controlling the Soviets while still negotiating with them.
“We took these [human rights abuse] issues seriously, and we kept pressing them,” he said. “We knew it was a long and hard road to deal with all these problems, the refuseniks, the human rights abuses, etc., and a lot of people laughed at the strategy of speaking truth to people who might not care.”
In the end, the West will need to confront the nastier aspects of the Iranian regime while bringing it into a cooperative relationship.
“This is what we did with the Soviets,” he said. “The Soviet Union was just as immoral, harsh, untrustworthy, and vicious as the Iranians. I’d love to see a different tone and a challenge to [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani’s positive statements about human rights. Negativism is not going to help Israel.”