Raising the stakes for the nuclear negotiations is the only way to test if Tehran is serious.
This post is part of "Obama and the Middle East: Act Two," a series produced with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on U.S. foreign policy in the president's second term. See our full coverage here.
The main issue regarding Iran is what nuclear offer to make. While most attention has focused on how to step up pressure on Tehran, the bigger sticks should be matched with juicier carrots, in a change from the past strategy of focusing on small confidence-building measures while leaving vague the end game. Neither Iranian leaders nor public opinion - in Iran or around the world - has been impressed by the very modest incentives offered Iran during the 2012 Baghdad talks. The "refreshed" offer that the big powers known as the P5+1 (Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.S.) are said to have agreed to is not much more generous. Not surprisingly, the reaction has been: Why should Iran make a deal if that is all it gets?
MORE ON OBAMA AND MIDDLE EAST
|Will Jordan Be the First Arab Monarchy to Fall?|
|Obama's Big Egypt Test: Sinai|
|To Stop Iran, Get a New Saudi King|
|More Words, Less Action On Israel and Palestine|
Iran has insisted on two benefits from a deal: sanctions relief and nuclear enrichment. An agreement is more likely if these issues are addressed with a generous offer. Surprisingly, the sanctions relief may be harder to do than nuclear enrichment. The U.S. and European practice, from Burma to Zimbabwe, has been to phase in sanctions relief, insisting on clear evidence of commitment to change before offering any rewards. That will certainly be the instinct regarding Iran, given the Islamic Republic's spotty record of implementation and quick suspension of past agreements.