Nuclear Issues

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Analysis & Opinions

Stephen M. Walt on the U.S., Iran, and the New Balance of Power in the Persian Gulf

| August 5, 2008

Walt: “… maintaining a (new) balance you don’t get conflict breaking out and you tilt in favour whichever side seems to be falling behind. At the same time, you do try to discourage conflict whenever possible. You certainly don’t try to control the region yourselves and if the balance breaks down as it did in 1991 and you have to intervene you go in, you get out as quickly as possible. But you don’t try to organize these societies. You don’t try to tell them how to live. You don’t try to tell them how their governments should be organized and you don’t try to transform them at the point of a rifle barrel. This is not disengagement, but it is also not trying to control the region or dictate its political evolution.”

“…we are not going to have a stable long-term situation in the Persian Gulf until the United States and other countries in the region—including Iran—do come to some understanding about the various issues that concern them.  Achieving that goal will require genuine diplomacy…The United States will also have to recognize that Iran’s size, potential power, large population, and its geo-strategic location inevitably make it a major player in the security environment in the Persian Gulf, and ignoring that fact is unrealistic…”