Ambassadors Crocker, Pickering, Luers: Isis, Not Assad Is Biggest Threat; U.S. And Iran Must Work Together
July 14, 2014 • 9:34AM

Ambassadors Ryan Crocker, Thomas Pickering, and William Luers--three highly respected and battle-tested former diplomats--published an op-ed on July 13 called “Common Cause with Iran,” that appeared in the Washington Post, Bloomberg News, and dozens of other publications and websites, calling for full cooperation between the United States and Iran on the war in Iraq and Syria, to defeat ISIS and other Sunni jihadis.

The article makes three crucial points: the oil-rich Gulf Arab monarchies built up the Sunni jihadis for decades and are to be blamed; the overthrow of Assad is not the priority for the U.S.--defeating ISIS is; the U.S. should conclude a nuclear agreement with Iran on July 20 and follow that up with full cooperation in stopping ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

“The advance in Iraq and Syria of the Islamic State (ISIS) poses a threat to the United States while clarifying choices for U.S. policymakers. The question confronting the United States and Iran is no longer whether to work together but how to do so,” the Ambassadors write. “And in light of decades of distrust and animosity, communications between the two countries can be greatly facilitated by reaching a comprehensive nuclear agreement in talks underway in Vienna. Failure, however, would leave only bad options.”

They present a thorough run-down of the bad policies adopted by the U.S. and its allies that led to the crisis, and advise a way out: make the P5+1 talks succeed, and they have a good chance of doing so. First among the bad policies that have to be changed is that “the Persian Gulf monarchies [after funding the Jihadis for years] face a choice between denouncing the Islamic State, which poses a significant threat to them as well, or continuing to emphasize the sectarian struggle with the Shi’ites.” They also warn Israel to look carefully and figure out that Iran is not their worst enemy.

Despite all the reports by skeptics about the Iran nuclear agreement, they believe a July 20 agreement is possible, and absolutely vital, if there is to be any chance for peace.

“But with the right nuclear agreement and pragmatic strategic decisions by Tehran and Washington,” they conclude, “there is a way forward.”

Crocker is now Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and Luers is director of the Iran Project. Pickering, a former undersecretary of state for political affairs, was ambassador to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992.