Jan 23, 2018, 11:02 AM
News Code: 82805190
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US inflexible position causes 10-yr delay to Iran deal

Tehran, Jan 23, IRNA – The inflexible stance adopted by the United States led to 10-year delay to Iran nuclear deal, Former Iranian diplomat and Princeton University Professor said.

“The Iranian nuclear negotiations experienced 10 years of failure from 2003 to 2013, followed by two years of progress and success. The main reason for the 10 years of failure was the in flexible US position, which included a maximalist demand for zero enrichment, zero centrifuges, and zero plutonium, with a refusal to acknowledge Iran’s right to enrichment under the NPT, which transgressed Iran’s bottom line” Hossein Mousavian wrote in his article titled “Building on the Iran nuclear deal for international peace and security” which appeared in tandfonline.com.

He also referred to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims reported by Jerusalem Post on 2014 as saying “I believe that means zero enrichment, zero centrifuges, zero plutonium, and of course an end to ICBM [Intercontinental ballistic missile] development.”

“As Joseph Rodgers explains in Arms Control, the bottom line of the West was no nuclear weapons in Iran. This was the Obama administration’s ultimate policy but it was not mutually exclusive with Iranian demands for enrichment. With a limited and highly monitored enrichment program, Iran cannot rapidly move toward nuclear weapons without being detected. Iran on its side could not negotiate toward a deal that banned enrichment capabilities entirely,” Mousavian said.

“Conversely, the main reason for the success of negotiations from 2013 to 2015 was the shift in US policy from zero enrichment to no nuclear bomb, that is, accepting Iran’s right to operate a nuclear enrichment program within the confines of the NPT. However, we cannot neglect other factors that also contributed to the nuclear deal’s completion.

The Western powers, especially the United States, were not in a position to reach a compromise with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, due to the high political costs involved. The 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani changed the atmosphere, as Rouhani had a track record as a nuclear negotiator and was open to accepting a maximum level of transparency and all objective guarantees to demonstrate that Iran’s nuclear program would not be diverted toward weaponization. For the world powers, these two factors were crucially important to concluding a deal. Moreover, Rouhani’s nomination of Javad Zarif as his foreign minister was another signal that pragmatism was returning to Iranian foreign policy.

However, the major changes in the Obama administration’s second term were another decisive factor. The arrival of John Kerry in place of Hillary Clinton and Rob Malley succeeding Dennis Ross in the White House put Undersecretary of State William Burns in a strong position to negotiate a deal. The US’ main assumption in imposing sanctions was that Iran would give up its nuclear program if the sanctions were sufficiently hard-hitting. During Obama’s first term, the United States was successful in winning support from other global powers to pressure Iran. But the Iranian reaction was shocking. Iran increased the capacity and level of its nuclear enrichment capabilities to the point of achieving a short breakout period. In doing so, it left the United States with a choice: either negotiate before Iran passed its game-changing short breakout window or respond to the reality of Iran as a nuclear threshold state. Unless it wanted to engage in another Middle East war, the United States was virtually compelled to negotiate before Iran passed the breakout threshold. Therefore, although the sanctions had harmed Iran and although a deal based on sanctions relief was attractive for Iran, the sanctions strategy failed to achieve its main purpose of dismantling the Iranian nuclear program.

On the other hand, Iran’s growing role in the region and the spread of disorder, terrorism, refugees, civil war, sectarianism, and failed states forced the global powers to acknowledge that achieving stability in the Middle East without cooperating with Iran was impossible. A nuclear deal could open the door for diplomatic engagement with Iran on regional issues and could restore stability and peace in the war-torn region. All these factors contributed toward enabling the Iranian nuclear crisis to be resolved through diplomacy.

The Iranian nuclear crisis and the factors that led to it were unique, but its resolution serves as a lesson for other nuclear crises, such as the current one in North Korea. Obviously, there are major differences between the two cases. Iran remained a member of the NPT, is a member of all weapons of mass destruction conventions, and never possessed a nuclear bomb; after 12 years of intrusive inspections by the IAEA, no evidence of any diversion of fissile material in Iran toward nuclear weaponization was ever presented.

Furthermore, Iran, at the highest religious level, opposes all weapons of destruction in principle, including nuclear weapons. None of this is true of North Korea. However, understanding the bottom lines of each party, defining the end state of a deal, dropping maximalist demands, departing from threatening tactics and rhetoric, and being prepared to make a face-saving deal acceptable to both parties are all lessons from the Iranian nuclear case that could be applied to averting disastrous conflict with North Korea.

Since the nuclear deal represents the first major agreement achieved between Iran and the world powers after the 1979 revolution, it is important to push for the proper and timely implementation of this agreement through multilateral and international pressure. Doing so would create a precedent for further possible deals between Iran and global powers. Iran is a stable, powerful, and very influential player in the region and in the Islamic world, one that cannot simply be neglected.

US President Trump favors reverting to the traditional US policy of confrontation toward Iran, which was tried by every US administration since 1979 and has failed. The aim of America’s coercive policies for 40 years was to isolate Iran and bring about regime change. Obama was the first US president to try diplomatic engagement as a means of resolving the nuclear issue. The JCPOA proves that diplomacy with Iran works. This is the key lesson that Trump needs to learn and use in Middle East crisis management.

Today, after almost four decades of strained relations, the central concern of the United States is that Iran is the region’s most influential country, whereas US allies in the region are either in a state of collapse or extremely vulnerable. Since Trump is so unpredictable, it is important for Europe, Russia, China, and other world powers such as India to prepare for alternative and adverse short- and medium-term scenarios.

The JCPOA also serves as evidence of the success of multilateral efforts. The world has already experienced the failure of unilateral US policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, which took the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi civilians, resulted in trillions of dollars of material costs and damage, and fostered the creation of extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. We know that today’s regional and international crises cannot be resolved through American unilateralism; the failure of the Iran nuclear deal would suggest that they cannot be resolved through multilateralism either.


The JCPOA, containing the most comprehensive transparency measures on nuclear nonproliferation ever negotiated, represents a major diplomatic achievement. Because President
Trump supports business, he could encourage US companies to cooperate in pursuing peaceful nuclear projects with Iran. This collaboration would be the best assurance of the civilian nature of the Iranian nuclear program. While US hosts the world’s largest corporate operators of nuclear facilities, employing those same corporations to partner and cooperate with Iran on nuclear projects would secure trust between the two sides after the sunset provisions of the deal expire. As the JCPOA was the first agreement created from multilateral and high-level direct US–Iran negotiations, the way forward for Washington and Tehran is (1) a full implementation of the JCPOA as the prerequisite for developing trust, (2) pursuing the long-term goal of eliminating the creation and proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism, and (3) collaborating to eliminate the risk of proliferation in the Middle East.

The world must build on the JCPOA to eliminate nuclear weapons from the Middle East and beyond, using it as a model to manage other regional crises through diplomacy, embracing moderate rather than radical approaches to Iran.”

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