To continue our class discussion on what to do about Iran, I wanted to direct you to an interview with Ken Pollack and Reuel Gerecht for the Council on Foreign Relations. Pollack brought up some interesting possibilities in line with his Three-Track strategy in the Persian Puzzle. He thinks Iran will respond more positively to an incremental carrot and stick approach than just the threat of military strike.
Many people are arguing right now that economic sanctions won't work because Iran is more concerned with attaining the freedom of action that would come with nuclear weapons than the country's economic health. But Pollack points out that the government (though perhaps not the president himself) is troubled by the economic situation and the popular unrest that's causing. The reason why economic sanctions haven't worked in the past is that Europe and Japan weren't willing to participate, so Iran could rely on those sources of trade. Pollack says they could "have their cake and eat it too." So obviously Japan and Europe would need to be on board for this to work.
So a possible "stick" he recommends is incremental investment sanctions, since the government is desperate for billions of dollars of capital investment and the US, Europe, and Japan are the only markets that can provide that money. The sanctions could start off small and directed, and incrementally increase depending on Iran's actions.
The carrots then could be capital investment as well, the promise of non-aggression, and even providing Iran with forms of power such as safeguarded light water reactors.
This is an attractive plan and Pollack certainly knows more than I do about how to negotiate with Iran. But it seems like the same kind of approach that's been tried but hasn't had much impact. The real difference is that in this scenario Europe and Japan would come in on the stick end, and the sanctions would be more properly directed. How to convince them to sacrifice important business deals when Europe in particular has been reluctant in the past? Hopefully Iran's escalating rhetoric and nuclear project is enough to frighten them into action. The good thing about this plan is that Russia and China wouldn't be so critical to effective sanctions, so the US, EU and Japan could bypass the Security Council if it appears to be going nowhere.