Beyond Sanction: The Next Iran Strategy

By / 3.31.2011

PPI has launched a new task force on human rights inside Iran. We’re proud to team up with Freedom House in this endeavor, and the project will be chaired by PPI Senior Fellow and frequent P-Fix contributor Josh Block and Andrew Apostolou, Senior Program Manager for Iran at FH. Yours truly will be a member of the group.

We’re calling the task force Beyond Sanction: The Next Iran Strategy, a nod to the necessity of bringing fresh ideas and new life into the debate on how to handle Tehran. As Iran defiantly continues efforts to construct a nuclear device, it has become glaringly clear in the wake of the 2009 Tehran protests in response to the country’s sham presidential elections that the regime lacks popular legitimacy. In the context of recent upheavals across North Africa and the Middle East, it’s important to remember that the pro-democracy movement began not in Tunisia, but in Iran.

We did an official launch of the new project yesterday, and have received a fair amount of positive press. Ben Smith of Politico had the scoop, and we’ve also received attention in the Jerusalem Post, Commentary, and The Atlantic.

From The Atlantic’s write up:

Nuclear weapons and human rights are “separate issues, but they’re separate issues with regard to the same regime, so one of the things the task force is going to listen and come up with is … how do you raise those separate issues and when do you raise them that has a direct impact,” said Freedom House co-chair Andrew Apostolou on a conference call with reporters this morning. …

The point of the group is not to criticize the Obama administration, but to supply it with strategic options.”I think they’ve taken some actions that have been important,” Block said, referencing President Obama’s initial openness to engage Iran and his messages to the Iranian people on the Nowruz holiday.

The administration’s initial policy was an attempt “to test Iran and give Iran a chance to say we are serious about talking about our nuclear regime, and I think the Iranian response was loud and clear that [Iran was] not serous,” Apostolou said. “What are you supposed to do, after 30 years … the same thing?

“They gave it a try, and it didn’t work. It didn’t work, and now they’re casting around for ideas.”