Experts Call for Diplomacy with Iran

Last Updated on October 15, 2013.

Experts agree: the P5+1 talks in Geneva this week mark the beginning, not the end, of a true diplomatic process. The U.S. should avoid increasing sanctions or threatening the use of force, as both could damage the potential for a successful international political solution.


Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel- “I don’t minimize (Israel’s) concerns, (but) I also think there may be an opportunity (to hold) a dialogue. Engagement is not appeasement, it’s not surrender. But I think we are wise, if the Iranians have reached out – which they have – to test their actions with their words. I have never believed that foreign policy is a zero-sum game. We all have security common interests. The threats that face the world today are global. They’re not nation-to-nation, they’re not regional, but they’re global. And aren’t we wiser if we can find ways to resolve disputes, recognizing danger, being very clear-eyed, keeping the strongest military in the world – which we have – to protect our interests along with our allies and strong alliances, aren’t we wiser to pursue engagement?”

Secretary of State John Kerry- “It would be diplomatic malpractice of the worst order not to examine every possibility of whether or not you can achieve that before you ask people to take military action and do what you have to do to prevent it. You have to exhaust the remedies before you ratchet up to a next tier of remedies that may have more dramatic consequences”

Vali Nasr, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution- “America will be going to the negotiating table without the credible threat of war, facing an Iran basking in newfound domestic stability and benefiting from its pivotal role in Syria. Negotiations between the two, for the first time, cannot be based on threatening Iran into submission, but on persuading it to compromise. That demands of America an approach to match the ‘heroic flexibility’ that Ayatollah Khamenei has called for.”

Fmr. Ambassador Nicholas Burns “The United States should aim for the sustained and substantive talks it has not had in the three decades.”

Fmr. Ambassador Thomas Pickering- “Past talks have suffered because they have been a series of one-night stands, meetings that took place over one day, where one side or the other, either Iran or the United States, had a proposal, and the other side rejected it. They went away and then spent another six to eight months negotiating a resumption.”

Ambassador Susan Rice- “If (Iran takes this) opportunity and gives up their program through a negotiated solution, that’s the best case scenario and in that context much may be possible.”

President Barack Obama- “At this stage, it is my belief that we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically. That’s not just my view. That’s the view of our top intelligence officials; it’s the view of top Israeli intelligence officials…it is deeply in everybody’s interests – the United States, Israel, and the world’s – to see if this can be resolved in a peaceful fashion.”

Catherine Ashton, European Union Foreign Policy Chief- “Our overall goal remains a comprehensive negotiated, long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, while respecting Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

Fmr. Ambassador James Dobbins- “We spoke to Stalin’s Russia. We spoke to Mao’s China. In both cases, greater mutual exposure changed their system, not ours. It’s time to speak to Iran, unconditionally, and comprehensively.”

Fmr. Ambassador John Limbert- “We and the Iranians need to be talking, if not as friends, then as two states with a shared interest in avoiding a disastrous conflict.”

35 Senior Security Experts

The President of the United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20500

October 7, 2013

Dear Mr. President,

We applaud your decision to use diplomacy vigorously in an effort to reach agreements with Iran, particularly given President Hassan Rouhani’s apparent openness to greater transparency and internationally-accepted and verifiable limits on Iran’s nuclear program. The hard work of diplomacy begins now. Decades of distrust and lack of contact between the two countries will complicate the task of reaching agreements that will provide us the assurance we require that Iran’s nuclear program will be used only for peaceful purposes.

You will undoubtedly face opposition to your decision to engage Iran. We support this new policy and pledge to help our fellow Americans appreciate the ambitious and transformative course you have chosen to build a more peaceful and more cooperative environment in the Middle East.

The diplomatic option is the right one at this time in view of the initiatives taken by the Iranian government that were made possible in part by your past policies. We wish you well in this constructive and important new undertaking.


Fmr. Ambassador Morton Abramowitz

Fmr. Ambassador John Beyrle

Hamid Biglari, formerly Vice Chairman of CitiGroup

Fmr. Ambassador Avis Bohlen

Brigadier General of the Unites States Marine Corps Stephen Cheney

Fmr. Ambassador Ryan Crocker

Suzanne DiMaggio, Asia Society

Fmr. Ambassador Nancy Ely-Raphel

Leslie H.Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations

Fmr. Congressman Lee H. Hamilton

Fmr. Ambassador William Harrop

Stephen Heintz, President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Fmr. Ambassador Christopher Hill

Fmr. U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills

Fmr. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer

Fmr. Ambassador John Limbert

Fmr. Ambassador William H. Luers

Jessica T. Mathews, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Fmr. Ambassador Richard McCormack

Fmr. Ambassador William G. Miller

Fmr. Ambassador Richard Murphy

Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold

Fmr. Ambassador Ronald Neumann

Fmr. Chairman of the National Intelligence Council Joseph Nye

Paul Pillar, formerly Central Intelligence Agency

Fmr. Ambassador Thomas Pickering

William A. Reinsch, National Foreign Trade Council

Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Gary Sick, Columbia University

Anne-Marie Slaughter, President, New America Foundation

James Walsh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Fmr. Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson

Fmr. Senator Timothy Wirth

Fmr. Ambassador Frank G. Wisner



Fmr. Ambassador William Luers, Fmr. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, and Dr. Jim Walsh- “We do believe that the piling on of more coercive sanctions and ultimatums, particularly when there are new hopes for the diplomatic process to get underway, will undermine or even preclude the possibility of negotiating a nuclear deal.”

Robert Pape, University of Chicago- “Economic sanctions are often a prelude to using military force.”

Suzanne Maloney, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute– “Indeed, the United States cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy. As severe sanctions devastate Iran’s economy, Tehran will surely be encouraged to double down on its quest for the ultimate deterrent.”

Trita Parsi, President, the National Iranian American Council and Natasha Bahrami, foreign policy researcher– “The policymakers responsible for these measures either are ignorant of or are simply ignoring the empirical evidence: broad sanctions – total financial and trade embargoes – do not have a good track record of changing target countries’ policies or of pushing them toward democracy.”

Shirin Ebadi, first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize “We oppose military attack on Iran or economic sanctions because that’s to the detriment of the people.”

Mehdi Karroubi, reformist politician and former presidential candidate- “Look at Cuba and North Korea. Have sanctions brought democracy to their people? They have just made them more isolated and given them the opportunity to crack down on their opposition without bothering themselves about the international attention.”

Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iranian political reformist- “Sanctions would not affect the government but would impose many hardships upon the people, who suffer enough as a result of the calamity of their insane rulers.”

Zahra Rahnavard, Iranian artist and politician– “Violence has many faces, and we identify economic sanctions as a vivid face of violence. Sanctions are a silent war against any nation that has risen up for democracy. Sanctions will exacerbate violence and crackdowns. Women and children are always the first group suffering from sanctions.”

Akbar Ganji, Iranian journalist- “Economic sanctions would destroy the middle class (and) the Green Movement. The more economic sanctions are applied against Iran, the more the government will control the economy.”



Fmr. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta “[If Iran were to be attacked] the United States would obviously be blamed and we could possibly be the target of retaliation from Iran, striking our ships, striking our military bases, and there are economic consequences to that attack which could impact a very fragile economy in Europe and a fragile economy here in the United States. We would have an escalation that would not only involve many lives, but I think it could consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret.”

Fmr. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates- “The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world.”

Meir Dagan, former Chief of the Israeli Mossad Intelligence Agency “[Attacking Iran is] the stupidest thing I have ever heard. It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.”

Yuval Diskin, former Chief of the Israeli Shin Bet Internal Security Agency– “Attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor– “The region would be literally set aflame [from an attack on Iran] with the conflict probably spreading through Iraq to Syria, creating one large belt of conflict, complicating our withdrawal from Afghanistan, particularly in the western parts of Afghanistan where Iran has the capacity to make life miserable for us.”

General Michael Hayden “When we talked about this in the government [during the G.W. Bush administration], the consensus was that [attacking Iran] would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent—an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret.”

Admiral William Fallon- “No one that I am aware of thinks there’s a real positive outcome of a military strike.”

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson “Inside the Pentagon, civilian and military, I cannot find a single voice in favor of striking Iran. Not only will we be mired in yet another interminable war, but from this one we might not recover for half a century.”

Gary Sick, National Security Council analyst “Paradoxically, the quickest way to insure that the Iranians decide to go for a bomb may be to bomb them. The most predictable result of a military strike would be Iran’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the ejection of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and cameras that watch every step of the Iranian enrichment process. The surest way to rally the Iranian people around this corrupt and repressive system is for an external power to attack it.”


Thank you to WWW coalition member FCNL for assistance with this post.


October 15, 2013