The Rand Research Brief "A New U.S. Policy Paradigm Toward Iran" offers the following recommendations:
The United States should consider a new approach to Iran that integrates elements of engagement and containment:
• Continue strengthening international sanctions and other ﬁnancial pressures targeted on the nuclear issue, but avoid unilateral measures that are not likely to generate broad international support.
• Pursue bilateral dialogues related to areas of common interest, such as instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, narcotics trafficking, natural disaster relief, refugees, and other humanitarian crises.
• Issue unambiguous statements about U.S. interests and intentions in the region, particularly regarding Iraq.
• Engage in efforts to build a multilateral regional security framework that is simultaneously inclusive of Iran and sensitive to the needs of U.S. friends and allies in the region.
While the policy advocacy of limited cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran is encouraging, one wonders why such advocacy is not also inclusive of Iran's nuclear program, such as adopting or building upon one of Iran's numerous compromise offers such as the one outlined in the Tehran Declaration of 2010. It is plainly obvious by now that a "carrot and stick" approach will not induce the Iranians to forego their rights to nuclear technology.
With regards to U.S. interests in Iraq, the Iranians have left no doubt that they are expecting the current SOFA agreement to be observed and U.S. military forces to withdraw from the country. Six members of the U.S. military were killed by a rocket attack two days ago in Iraq, which was something of a warning shot to any continued occupation of the country. In addition, U.S. policy in other parts of the region appears to be in damage control mode in the midst of the "Arab Spring." How the U.S. is supposed to "issue unambiguous about [American] interests and intentions in the region" has been greatly complicated by such fluid and dynamic situations in the region.
Elsewhere in the brief, it is curious to see Iran's conventional and asymmetric military forces seen not as they are--as elements of deterrence--but instead as a means of power projection. For the Islamic Republic of Iran this is actually the domain of soft power, not hard power.
Overall, though, the brief could serve as the basis of a more positive approach if only the first recommendation encompassed genuine engagement and compromise on the nuclear dispute; phasing out the economic war being directed toward Iran in the form of sanctions, cooperating on construction of Iran's nuclear power infrastructure (as mandated by the NPT) and making detente or even rapprochement the ultimate goal in relations between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran.