The U.S. has alleged that Iran plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Iran has denied the allegation and stated that the assassination attempt is a “propaganda” generated by the U.S. to build an “international consensus” against Iran.

Both countries need to gather and analyze objectively all evidence and facts they are claiming.  But the recent events have brought up a much larger issue on how to tackle Iran and its nuclear program.

The intent of Iran’s nuclear proliferation is a serious threat not only to the U.S. but also to the promulgation of nuclear build-up by other countries such as North Korea and Pakistan.

Inciting a country with radical leaders and a contentious political and diplomatic history may not be a pragmatic approach for the U.S.  In light of the current political instability in the Middle East and North Africa and global economic volatility, it must exhaust a host of options such as developing diplomatic means, considering economic sanctions and providing security to Iran, engaging China and Russia in the diplomatic negotiations, and building a coalition of international efforts to prevent Iran from building nuclear arsenals and becoming a threat to the democratic reform and peace in the Middle East.

Diplomatic efforts

Before any diplomatic efforts have been initiated, the U.S. first should consider the facts and their sources.  The U.S. has not had any diplomatic relationship with Iran since 1979.  The Obama administration should consider it as an opportunity to engage Iran.  To bolster diplomatic efforts with Iran, the U.S. must consider various conditions.

First, the U.S. should use the public view of Iran as leverage to open up discussions with the Iranian ruling circle to share ideas of democratic values.  According to The Washington Quarterly, 70 percent of Iranians hope for a normalized relationship between Iran and the U.S.  The U.S. should garner this favorable Iranian public opinion by widening its trade support in private and public sectors.

Second, the U.S. should not consider unilateral actions against Iran before ensuring that Iran has violated IAEA and NPT protocols for nuclear proliferation.   In other words, the U.S. should convince Iran that it is open to diplomatic efforts to negotiate a mutually respectable co-existence between the two countries without any interference of the sovereignty of Iran.

Finally, the U.S. should leverage the chain of events in North Africa and the Middle East to garner Iran’s cooperation with the U.S. and international alliance to create a process of democratic reform and to reconsider its nuclear objectives.

Economic sanctions

The U.S. must evaluate its existing and new economic sanctions against Iran.  Before taking any new substantive sanctions, a broader consensus from other countries should be built for the sanctions to be effective.  Imposing effective sanctions would require the following:

First, in its October 17 issue, the Washington Post reported that Iran “continues to stockpile enriched uranium in defiance of U.N. resolutions.”  The broader issue is that both countries must be open to mutually agreeable conditions .  In other words, Iran must adhere to the scope of the IAEA and NPT nuclear proliferation protocols.  At the same time, the U.S. must recognize the right to Iran’s nuclear program for public use of nuclear fuels.

Second, the U.S. must reexamine the current sanctions against Iran.  If Iran does not have a nuclear arms program then sanctions could be gradually lifted.  Otherwise, sanctions may need to be strategically imposed such as restricting the import of refueling products.

Finally, the U.S. should weigh all available options of negotiating with Iran before new economic sanctions are imposed.  According to Mark Lander of The New York Times, the previous economic sanctions have not all been effective against Iran.  In fact, the previous sanctions have made Iran even more “resilient” against the U.S. and international efforts of meddling into its nuclear program.

Engaging China and Russia

The U.S. should convince China and Russia that it would not initiate any pre-emptive military action against Iran.  Pre-emptive military actions would not be an effective method because it would be illegal, would set off an international anger against the U.S., and would not guarantee destruction of all of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Furthermore, pre-emptive military actions against Iran would be considered premature for the U.S. without having to resolve its current military engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

International coalition

An international coalition could offer its diplomatic leverage to engineer a non-threatening relationship between Iran and the U.S. for building a platform for peace and stability in the Middle East.  Iran is a critical piece to broker and sustain effective peace strategies in that region.

The international coalition must exert its economic and political pressures on Iran to adopt policies that would not only eliminate Iran’s nuclear proliferation and but also use Iran as a catalyst for peace in the Middle East.

The powerful ruling circle of Iran believes the alleged assassination plot could be a pre-text for military actions against its sovereignty by its enemies.  A diplomatic rift has further divided the two nemeses – the U.S. and Iran.  But it is never too late to bridge the gap between what is and what isn’t.   They both must confront this challenge.