January 10th, 2013
08:47 AM ET

The year we reckon with Iran

By Fareed Zakaria

Opponents of Chuck Hagel's nomination to be the U.S.'s next Secretary of Defense claim he is outside the mainstream in his views on Israel. Hagel's actual policy positions don't reflect that. On many issues, he sounds a lot like Israeli President Shimon Peres, who lamented in an interview published Jan. 9 by the New York Times that Israel was not doing enough to make peace. In any event, Hagel's views on Israel are irrelevant, since policy on that issue will be set by the White House and Congress. Where Hagel does appear out of the mainstream is on Iran, which is a good thing because Washington desperately needs fresh thinking on the topic.

In 2013, perhaps in the next few months, President Obama will face a crisis on Iran. He has categorically ruled out living with a nuclear-armed Iran under a Cold War–style policy of containment. That means either Iran will capitulate to U.S. demands or the U.S. will go to war with Iran. Since the first option is extremely unlikely and the second extremely unattractive, the Obama Administration needs to find a negotiated solution. That means using sticks and carrots–or what is often called coercive diplomacy–to get a deal that Washington and Tehran can live with.

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Topics: Iran • Middle East • Time