Shadow Government

Continuity of Shadow Government

By Christian Brose

Well, everyone, I'm sad to say this is my last day with Foreign Policy. On Monday, I will begin a new job as the national security advisor to Sen. John McCain. I am honored and humbled by the opportunity, but moving on is bittersweet. Over the past year, I've had a chance to help re-launch Foreign Policy with a tremendous group of people: Susan Glasser, Moises Naim, Blake Hounshell, and all of the junior editors, who are the real brains of this operation (but don't tell anyone). In just one year -- a year, I would add, that hasn't been kind to the economy, and especially the long-suffering media industry -- we have expanded Foreign Policy's revenue over last year, added subscribers to our award-winning magazine, and built the new ForeignPolicy.com into the single best website in the business devoted to global politics, economics, and ideas. And that is still just the beginning of what this institution will achieve in the years to come.

On top of all that, it has been a real joy to write regularly and edit this blog, along with a truly amazing and experienced group of foreign policy practitioners-turned-bloggers. I have learned a great deal from all of them. I think the blog is more than living up to the mission we set for it. And most of all, I've had fun. That's a great thing to say for any job.

This is my last post to Shadow Government. (I can already hear my own dedicated loyal opponents choking back their tears in the comments section.) But I am thrilled to say that the best days of this blog are most definitely ahead of it. Peter Feaver and Will Inboden, who have been star contributors in this blog's first year, will assume my editorial responsibilities here at Shadow Government, effective immediately. We have already worked together to fulfill my long-standing desire to add a lot of smart new contributors to the current stable of terrific bloggers. Keep an eye out for the new arrivals in the days to come. You will be very impressed.

So Peter and Will are already well on their way to making Shadow Government an even better forum for practical, constructive commentary on U.S. foreign policy from experienced members of the loyal opposition. Consider that continuity in shadow government. I will remain a loyal fan and reader of this blog, and of ForeignPolicy.com. And who knows, maybe I'll have a chance to come back at some point. If, that is, Peter and Will let me...

Shadow Government

What are the odds that Obama's Iran talks will succeed?

By Peter Feaver

How should we measure success in the talks with Iran that begin today? I propose the following sliding scale.

1. Breathtaking, mission accomplished victory: Iran agrees to abandon its nuclear weapons program, submit to a rigorous verification and safeguards regime, and open substantive dialogue on its support for global terrorism. If this is achieved, President Obama would be a shoo-in for the Nobel Peace Prize. Chance of this happening: I would guess near zero.

2. Demonstrable and significant progress: Iran's continued recalcitrance is identified early by all the relevant players, especially Russia and China, and the UN Security Council responds within a few weeks with a substantial ramping up of de facto sanctions on Iran -- sanctions that involve the effective participation of Iran's chief trading partners, the EU, Russia, China, and India. Chance of this happening: I would guess not zero, but maybe just a 1-in-10 chance.

3. No progress beyond what the Bush team already achieved: Iran's continued recalcitrance provokes a range of global rhetorical censure ranging from Chinese tut-tutting to American (or French or British) bluster. The United States unilaterally increases sanctions pressure, but only incrementally because U.S. unilateral leverage over Iran is minimal. Europeans agree to review their options for an incremental increase of sanctions pressure themselves, but do not commit irrevocably to a ramp up in pressure. Russians and Chinese acknowledge that Iran has not been forthcoming, but block further sanctions on the grounds that these would be counterproductive. Chance of this happening: I would guess this is the most likely outcome, so maybe a 4-in-10 chance.

4. Less progress than what the Bush team already achieved: Iran's continued recalcitrance even after the U.S. has played its "hole card" of the evidence of Iranian duplicity concerning the second enrichment site splits the international coalition and key members, likely Russia or China, blame the United States for its mishandling of the negotiations. Chance of this happening: I fear this is the next most-likely-outcome, so maybe a 3-in-10 chance.

5. False progress is achieved: Desperate to show progress, the United States accepts a fig-leaf arrangement, or merely declares the negotiations fruitful when they are not, and so there is neither true progress towards Iranian relinquishment of their nuclear program nor increased leverage imposed on them to make a deal in the next round more likely. Chance of this happening: I don't think this is as likely as some Obama critics think, but there is a non-trivial possibility of this happening, perhaps barely a 2-in-10 chance.

6. U.S. capitulation: Desperate for a deal, the United States follows the advice of some and signs a grand bargain agreement that "resolves" the issue by preemptively conceding to all of Iran's demands, including the demand that the world community stop complaining about the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Chance of this happening: not likely, probably only marginally more likely than outcome #1.

It should be noted that when Dennis Ross, a key player on the Obama team, outlined his strategy for Iran, it was essentially the Bush administration strategy and so was likely only to produce what the Bush team had been able to produce -- or a slight improvement thereupon. While he hoped for Outcome #1, he acknowledged that it might more realistically only achieve #2 in the medium-term. For that reason, I do not think it is fair to declare the strategy a failure if it doesn't achieve #1. However, if it doesn't achieve #2, I think it is fair, and perfectly within the terms established by Team Obama, to declare it a failure.