Experts urge Obama to talk to Iran and advance Syria peace
Saban Center report says Iran closer to nuclear bomb than widely thought, talks could defuse Mideast tensions.
The Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, D.C. released a report Tuesday that calls on the U.S. to hold direct negotiations with Iran without preconditions.
Entitled "Restoring the Balance - A Middle East Strategy for the Next President", the report, compiled over 18 months, states that the Iraq war benefits Iran strategically more than any other state, and the Islamic Republic is nearing a nuclear weapon faster than experts have asserted in the past, and that the U.S. must pursue talks with them.
"If you're moving on the Israeli-Palestinian front, in Tehran they might feel they're left behind, and react with terrorist attacks. This time is really important to engage them in making the new order, to make clear we're not trying to isolate them, but to engage them", the report states.
Former United States Ambassador to Israel and Brookings Institution member Martin Indyk called for Obama to pursue talks with Iran, saying "they are willing to engage and we must find a way to engage them more seriously."
The report also calls for advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process on both the Palestinian and Syrian tracks.
In regard to Syria, Indyk said "in contrast to the Palestinian track we have a commitment of the leader [in Syria] who has proven himself to be brash and quite decisive, who needs to establish his own legitimacy and regain what his father lost - Golan Hights, and give up what his father gained - Lebanon."
Indyk added that it's possible to create symbiosis between the two dimensions the paper proposes - resolution of the Israeli-palestinian conflict, and engagement with Iran, "so they potentially benefit from each other". "Time is not working in favor of this solution and it's important that President-Elect Obama starts working on it as soon as possible. This is clearly a priority for him and we feel it should be."
According to Richard Haass, head of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Middle East will remain the most unstable region of the world for the United States to deal with.
He emphasized that in spite of the fact that the new U.S. government is being formed at a time when the image of the United States is suffering abroad, "Obama is in a "unique position" for a new start in a region."