09 December 2007

Iran, Realism and the NIE

The NIE report indicates that to the best knowledge of all 16 of the intelligence agencies in the United States, Iran ceased work on a nuclear weapons program in 2003.

This story has been well covered in the news. Unfortunately I think that the most important aspect of it has been missed. Amid all the discussion of how much the President knew when in regards to his rhetoric against Iran there has been a lack of discussion about what we should actually do in our foreign policy.

As rarely as this happens I'm actually going to side slightly with the President on this one. Iran is still dangerous. They are developing nuclear technology. It is not hard to transfer civilian capabilities into military capabilities. They have also failed to reach any level of transparency in their development program. All of this leaves reasonable doubt that they Iranians are really being above board when they say they have no nuclear weapons program.

However the one thing that has not been talked about and is extremely reassuring is the fact that the entire affair proves that Iran is a state that does and will respond to realist policy tools. In 2003 they stopped development as a result of economic pressures applied to the country. It is also the year that we invaded Iraq, a fellow member of the "Axis of Evil". These are very rational reasons to change their course of action. It proves that the regime is not blindly perusing nuclear weapons as a result of ideology.

Now that we know that they will respond to economic pressures it is important to make sure that they understand this and use these economic pressures in a manner that allows us to develop the situation towards openness.