Obama must offer a 'grand deal' with Iran on its nuclear program
The current trajectory is headed toward a violent endgame, writes this former spokesman for Iran's nuclear negotiators. The Obama administration needs a new engagement policy with Iran that brings an end to 33 years of a failed 'diplomacy plus pressure' policy dubbed as 'dual-track.'
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I cannot agree more with Obama when days after his reelection he said: “There should be a way in which they [Iran] can enjoy peaceful nuclear power while still meeting their international obligations and providing clear assurances to the international community that they’re not pursuing a nuclear weapon.” The following is a roadmap to realize that goal:Skip to next paragraph
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The negotiating countries known as P5+1 and Iran have two immediate ways to cool down tensions and warmongering: 1) Iran can agree to halt 20-percent enrichment and cap it at 5 percent in return for partial removal of sanctions – such as European unilateral sanctions on Iranian oil and Iran’s central bank; or 2) the P5+1 can get more inspections, taking advantage of Iranian legislation passed by the parliament that permits the government to implement “Additional Protocol” inspections and safeguards in return for the West recognizing Iran’s legitimate right to enrichment.
If Iran and the P5+1 agreed to this second option, that would greatly ease the resolution of outstanding technical issues between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran.
A next step should be a realistic, comprehensive package for solving the nuclear standoff.
Such a package should ensure Iran’s maximum level of transparency and cooperation with the IAEA and guarantee “no breakout” in Iran’s nuclear program. The P5+1 should reciprocate by recognizing Iran’s right to enrichment under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and gradually lift sanctions.
Simultaneously, direct talks between Iran and the US on broader issues are essential. Rapprochement will be possible only if, for the duration of engagement policy, the US dual-track policy ceases and hostile actions, sanctions, and other forms of coercive pressures are put on hold. And Tehran and Washington must also agree on a comprehensive agenda for reconciliation. That agenda must include all bilateral, regional, and international issues – demonstrating the “entire game plan” while implementing it in phases.
Helpful, too, would be for both sides to dial back the language of threats and heated rhetoric and to convince political factions in both countries to support the talks – at least temporarily – while negotiations continue. Tehran and Washington will need to recognize their respective spoilers at home and abroad, and be determined to prevent them from obstructing and derailing rapprochement efforts.
The alternative to engagement will be catastrophic to international peace and security. The continuation of the economic and covert war against Iran would further radicalize its behavior and shrink the maneuverability of Iranian decisionmakers to compromise. Ultimately the US would be forced to enter a third war in the Middle East – one that would be disastrous for the US, Iran, the region, and beyond. Therefore diplomatic progress is a must, not a choice.
Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and a former spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. His latest book is “The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir” published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.