Two Brookings scholars who have joined the Bush State Department's Policy Planning Office (Haass as its director) edited this volume about the relative merit of sanctions (vinegar) and engagement (honey). Although only two of the seven case studies (Iran, Iraq, the Soviet Union, China, South Vietnam, North Korea, South Africa) in this volume are about the Middle East, the editors' conclusion centers on that region.
The chapters focus on how effective was the instrument chosen—engagement or sanctions—at accomplishing the policy goal intended. Kennether Juster's study of engaging Iraq in the 1980s highlights the risks in "even limited engagement with a problem state" and argues for a precondition that "the problem state is willing to take steps to improve its conduct." Johannes Reissner's study analyzes what he calls the failure of Europe's critical dialogue with Iran in the 1990s, drawing as one of its lessons, "sanctions should not be excluded from any engagement strategy."
The editors would be well advised to take this advice for, oddly, their conclusion bears little relation to these excellent analyses of engagement with Iran and Iraq. Rather, Haass and O'Sullivan argue for "incentives-oriented engagement strategies" towards three Middle Eastern countries now facing U.S. sanctions Iran, Libya, and Syria as well as Cuba. Asking themselves why not include Iraq in that list, they answer that it "has rejected the possibility of any mutually reciprocal engagement process." Very true, but the same applies to Iran, Libya, or Syria, a point the editors seem to overlook.
Iran is an instructive example. The editors propose a list of possible interim steps Tehran might take, without bothering to inform the reader that Iran has refused to act on any of them. Indeed, in one particularly galling case, Iran's foreign minister proposed that Iran and the United States take one of the steps the authors suggest (namely, contact in international forums), but then his government refused to attend a session arranged by the UN Secretary-General on the Afghan problem (where Iran and the United States even share common interests). Such evidences suggests that Washington's Iran policy has been shaped by experience, not by the "domestic American constituencies" the editors cite. The problem is not that "Iran has been demonized" as the authors claim, but that it has a profoundly different vision of its national interest.