Best Iran Idea Yet?

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When I'm looking for edgy, outside-the-box thinking on foreign policy, I don't generally turn to the Council on Foreign Relations (or, for that matter, to anything with the word "council" in it). But I have to say that the best truly new, even radical, idea on the Iran front comes from Richard Haass, president of CFR, and Michael Levi, a senior fellow there.

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Haass and Levi is buried this paragraph:

One way to increase the odds that a deal would be accepted is to make the outlines of any compromise public. The Iranian people would then be able to see that the world was not trying to humiliate Iran but rather offering it something fair, if only Iran's leaders would agree. Political pressure could grow on those leaders to accept the compromise, gain relief from sanctions and avoid military attack.

The virtue of this idea was underscored when I spoke with Jason Rezaian, a journalist of American and Iranian citizenship who is based in Tehran. He emphasized how much mistrust of America there is in Iran, and it struck me that a publicized offer could help close the trust deficit--especially if the offer included a key ingredient that Haas and Levi embrace: granting Iran the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes so long as the enrichment is carefully monitored by the international community.

Unfortunately, when I ran the Haass-Levi proposal by Rezaian, he pointed out one practical problem with it:

In other words: An initiative like this would take great courage, skill, and creativity on President Obama's part. But if avoiding war doesn't call for a profile in courage, what does?

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Robert Wright is the author of, most recently, the New York Times bestseller The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic. More

Wright is also a fellow at the New America Foundation and editor in chief of Bloggingheads.tv. His other books include Nonzero, which was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book in 2000 and included on Fortune magazine's list of the top 75 business books of all-time. Wright's best-selling book The Moral Animal was selected as one of the ten best books of 1994 by The New York Times Book Review.Wright has contributed to The Atlantic for more than 20 years. He has also contributed to a number of the country's other leading magazines and newspapers, including: The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, Time, and Slate, and the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism and his books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

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