Here is a piece of advice for Barack Obama for dealing with Iran, one of the countries that will loom large in his presidency. Forget the way five of your predecessors dealt with the place. Take your cue from Richard Nixon and his 1972 breakthrough with China.
Just as Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, realized that a quarter of a century of isolating and weakening China had not served America’s interests, so Obama should acknowledge that 30 years of U.S. policy since the 1979 Iranian revolution has failed and that what is needed is a grand bargain, a shift as fundamental as the one Nixon achieved with China.
Those suggestions come from Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, a husband-and-wife team of independent experts who worked on Middle East policy on the National Security Council during George W. Bush’s first term in the White House.
A grand bargain would involve putting all the differences between the two countries on the table at the same time and resolve them as a package.
The list of differences is long. At the top of it is Iran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. suspects is geared to make nuclear weapons. (Iran denies this). Then there is Iranian support for Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, two groups classified as “terrorist” by the United States. Under the Bush administration, Washington threatened military strikes, talked of regime change and imposed economic sanctions.