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Terrorism & Security

High stakes for Iran nuclear talks

This weekend is seen as Tehran's best opportunity to make concessions on the Iran nuclear program if it is has any intention of doing so.

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A key aspect of entering a conversation based on mutual respect is recognizing the other side’s concerns as equal to one’s own. To solve the nuclear issue, the scope of the upcoming talks among Iran and the “P5+1” (the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany) must be comprehensive. The concerns of all sides must be addressed. Complex matters that have been left unaddressed for decades cannot be solved overnight. Another sign of mutual respect is a willingness and readiness to both give and take, without preconditions. This form of reciprocity is distinct from approaches that involve only taking. Most important, and this cannot be stressed enough, is that dialogue must be seen as a process rather than an event. A house can burn to the ground in minutes but takes a long time to build. Similarly, trust can easily and rapidly be broken, but it takes a long time to build.

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In a report for the Monitor published yesterday, Scott Peterson explains the roots of Iranian distrust and why it sees the UN's IAEA as a tool for hostile foreign governments to undermine Tehran.

The Islamic Republic has been targeted by an escalating covert war, widely attributed to the United States and Israel and their proxies. That war has included the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, the Stuxnet computer virus, American CIA spy drone flights deep into Iranian airspace, and a host of unexplained explosions and acts of espionage.

"I think [Iran] has reason to be suspicious," says Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish former director of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in Iraq in the 1990s. "The Iranians don't trust the other side at all. When these killings are taking place ... they have all the more reason to be angry and upset; it's cruel [killing] scientists going to their job." 

"There is a consensus within Iran that more access [with the IAEA], more cooperation, [means] more assassinations, more sabotage," says [Seyed Hossein] Mousavian [a former member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team]. "Which means there is a great, great mistrust from the Iranian point of view to the real intention of the IAEA. They are really concerned that the IAEA has been used as an instrument for espionage, sabotage, covert action and preparing the ground for a military strike."

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