A Task Force on Iran set up by New York think tank Council on Foreign Relations recommended “selective political engagement of the Islamic government, and said lack of sustained relations with Iran over the past 25 years has hurt US interests in the region. July 19, 2004 - Lack of sustained relations between the US and the Islamic government over the last 25 years is harming US interests at a time of America’s heavy involvement in the Middle East and Central Asia, a task force set up by the New York think tank Council on Foreign Relations, warned in a paper on Monday.
"The Islamic Republic appears to be solidly entrenched and the country is not on the brink of revolutionary upheaval,” the Task Force, named “Iran: A New Approach” said. "Those forces that are committed to preserving Iran's current system remain firmly in control and represent the country's only authoritative interlocutors. The urgency of the concerns surrounding [Iran's] policies mandates the United States to deal with the current regime rather than wait for it to fall, it said.
The Council’s panel of experts and former US officials recommended a set of incentives and punishments aimed at a “selective” engagement with Iran with the goal of resolving Iran’s nuclear issue and stabilizing the Middle East.
“Direct dialogue with Tehran on specific areas of mutual concern should be pursued," the panel, headed by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA Director Robert Gates, recommended.
“A US-Iran political dialogue should not be deferred until differences over Iran's nuclear ambitions and Iran’s involvement in regional conflicts have been resolved,” the report said. “Rather, the process of selective political engagement itself represents a potentially effective path for addressing those differences,” it added.
The panel rejected a “grand bargain” that would seek to settle comprehensively all US-Iran conflicts, including US allegations that Iran backs terrorism, undermines Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and stirs problems in Iraq.
The Task Force acknowledged that past efforts to engage Iran's Islamic regime have failed, and that even a discerning policy may still be rebuffed by the regime's obstinacy. However, it said, two recent developments highlight the most urgent priorities for US policy toward Iran. The ongoing investigation of the International Atomic Energy Agency into Iran’s nuclear program and the evolving situations in Iraq and Afghanistan underscore the vital relevance of Iran for US policy.
Throughout its tenure, Bush's administration has been divided over whether to reach out to Iran after a quarter-century of hostility or to toughen its approach, Reuters said in a dispatch from Washington, linking the release of the panel’s report to the election season in the US. Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry has signaled an interest in greater engagement with Tehran, according to Reuters.