An Off-Ramp From Our Iran Policy Could Take Us on the Scenic Route to Peace

abuaardvark: Obama to highlight off-ramps for Iran policy at UN // hey, there’s an idea bit.ly/ckp9wB

Thus tweeted Marc Lynch this morning. In case you’re unfamiliar with him, he’s the political science professor and fellow of the Center for a New America Security who gained fame blogging on his own under the name Abu Aardvark. With his tweet today he was sharing a Reuters story, Obama to tell Iran at UN: door open to engagement, which reports that, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly this week, President Obama will tell Iran that . . .

“The door is open to them having a better relationship with the United States and with the international community,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said. . . . if it can demonstrate the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

The ironic tone of Lynch’s tweet is, no doubt, a reference to a post he wrote at his current Web home base, Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel. Titled Needed: An Off-Ramp for Iran Policy, it was fairly bleak. He imagined . . .

. . . a relentless slide towards a replay of the Iraq saga of the 1990′s: a steady ratcheting-up of sanctions, which increasingly impact the Iranian people but fail to compel change in the regime’s political behavior; episodic and frequent diplomatic crises which consume the world’s diplomatic attention and resources; the growing militarization and polarization of the Gulf; ongoing uncertainty about Iranian intentions and capabilities. Eventually, as with Iraq, the choices may well narrow sufficiently and the perception of impending threat mount so that a President — maybe Obama, maybe Palin, maybe anyone else — finds him or herself faced with “no choice” but to move towards war. “Keeping Tehran in a Box” is not a pretty scenario, nor one which I think anyone especially wants, but it seems the most likely path unless better “off-ramps” are developed to avert it. And such “off-ramps” are the most glaring absence in the current Iran policy debate.

Hands frozen on the steering wheel, we can’t seem to make ourselves leave the interstate and take the back roads. As we all know, they may be toughter to negotiate, but in the end, the scenic route proves more rewarding.