For twenty years, Americans eager to invest in the Iranian energy industry have been leading the search for Iranian moderates - something like a quest for unicorns, creatures thought to have magical properties that unfortunately do not exist. The latest effort, a report from the Atlantic Council endorsed by dozens of people who should know better, is one of the less impressive such efforts. Among its recommendations: "the sale of U.S. made nuclear power reactors to Iran" (seriously - the subject gets three pages out of the thirteen pages devoted to "a plan of action").
The flawed policy recommendations stem from ignoring the source of the problems in U.S.-Iranian relations. Paradoxically, the volume on analysis nicely explains why the recommended policy steps will never work: "Power struggles and the specter of coercive reprisals make it unlikely that Iranian government officials can select and implement parallel reciprocal steps toward rapprochement without being undercut by their conservative opponents." In other words, were the United States to implement the recommended steps toward rapprochement, it should expect no response by Iran - but Washington should take the steps anyway.
Entirely missing from the Atlantic Council report is any hint of support for democracy and human rights in Iran. There are no suggestions about how to help the Iranian reform movement in its struggle against the hardline repression that closes newspapers, arrests parliament members, throws religious minorities in jail, and assassinates intellectuals.