How to Really Engage Iran: A Proposal

23 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2013 Last revised: 23 Jun 2014

See all articles by Amit K. Chhabra

Amit K. Chhabra

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: April 18, 2013


After the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001 (“9/11”), American public opinion understandably disfavored talk of negotiating with perceived enemies of the state. In this context, President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was criticized for its stated choice to engage Iran directly and to meet its president without preconditions. Thus, it became politically advantageous to appear tough with Tehran; the harrowing events of the Iran Hostage Crisis in the not-so-distant past added fuel to the fire. However, the ultimate question of how the world’s only remaining superpower may legitimately challenge Iran’s nuclear pursuits in accordance with international law must not be affected by changing political winds or by a Hollywood director’s choice of anti-American depictions. Thus, this Article first reviews U.S.-Iranian diplomatic history and principles of international law governing the use of force; to American eyes, Iran appears as a bulimic man with plenty of posturing though indeterminate intentions and nuclear weapon capabilities. Next, the Article looks to lessons learned from dealing with such “rogue” states as Cuba, North Korea and Libya. The Obama Administration’s first term foreign policy presages a continued stalemate with Iran, as Iran tends to not violate international law; moreover, Iran is unable to abandon one of its most vital national security interests. Finally, the Article suggests an alternative negotiation route. After decades of frayed diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran, the same-old strategies will predictably lead to only more frustration and continued deadlock. In this regard, the P5 1 should consider offering Iran the option of withdrawing from the NPT entirely or adhering to an NPT side letter that recognizes its nuclear weapons ambitions by enabling it to become a nuclear-capable state. Such a gesture of even-handedness has the collateral benefit of further revealing the parties’ intentions and improving regional peace and security.

Keywords: Iran, Nuclear, Proliferation, Islam, Obama, Ahmadinejad

Suggested Citation

Chhabra, Amit K., How to Really Engage Iran: A Proposal (April 18, 2013). 14 Chicago-Kent Journal of International and Comparative Law 1 (2013), Available at SSRN: or

Amit K. Chhabra (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics