December 2, 2008
Catherine Philp in Washington
Iran poses the greatest foreign policy challenge to the new president with Tehran on course to produce a nuclear bomb in the first year of an Obama administration, an unprecedented coalition of top think tanks warned yesterday.
Barack Obama must follow through on his promises of direct talks with Tehran and engage the Middle East region as a whole if he is to halt a looming crisis that could be revisited on the United States, the experts warned.
“Diplomacy is not guaranteed to work: it is not,” Richard Hass, one of the authors said. “But the other options – military action or living with an Iranian weapon are sufficiently unattractive for it to warrant serious commitment.”
The warnings came in a report called “Restoring the Balance,” a Middle East strategy for the incoming president drafted by the Council for Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. Gary Samore, one of the authors, said the level of alarm over the “hornet’s nest” facing the new president in the Middle East, and the need for the swift adoption of previously untested approach, had inspired the unprecedented decision to write policy for him. “New administrations can choose new policies but they can’t choose next contexts,” Mr. Samore said. “This is what they inherit.”