Iran talks: Why time is ripe for compromise
Positive signals from Iran and the United States are encouraging as talks on Tehran's nuclear program get underway, writes a political expert from Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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Both signals show a softening of the US position backing the 2006 UN Security Council resolution that demanded Iran “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development.” The American softening also indicates a readiness for respectful engagement.
At a time when neither suspension of Iranian nuclear activity nor international collaboration with Iran on nuclear technology seems feasible, the one possible step is either a temporary cap on the number of centrifuges or a demonstration of restraint in the level of enrichment – or both – as confidence building measures by Iran.
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According to the Iranian News Agency, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran considers the idea of a temporary cap on the level of enrichment a likely path Iran could take. That would allow for the 20 percent enriched uranium required for producing medical isotopes. This leaves the door open for a fuel swap. The idea of a fuel cap was repeatedly affirmed by Mr. Ahmadinajad last summer. Such a position matches the US request for sustainable transparency and meticulous verification, supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
To make these talks a success, the parties must first aim for a win-win negotiation. Each side at the end of each round must have something tangible to show to the public back home.
Second, reciprocity is crucial. Word for word, and action for action, mutual concessions will secure the result, limit expectations, and warrant a continuation of the process.
Third, the promulgation of an initial agreement or statement, expressing the principal positions of each side, can shut the door on those who might be interested in prolonging the crisis. An initial agreement could be in the form of a joint communiqué, to limit disparate interpretations and also to promote the commitment to getting real results from each round.
Finally, as the incoming president of the Non-Aligned Movement, Iran wishes to be treated as a reliable member of the international community. Therefore, a respectful and cooperative atmosphere free from blame and recrimination is necessary for a constructive, problem-solving approach to resolving the nuclear issue as well as other regional issues.
By approaching with compromise, maybe we will be able to see the US high-level delegation as a guest to the nonaligned summit in Tehran this summer.
Mansour Salsabili is a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. A senior political expert on leave from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, he participated in a number of efforts ranging from UN reforms to the Non-Aligned Movement. The views expressed here are entirely his own.