Experts: Progress in Iran Nuclear Talks requires flexibility, creativity

“There is the possibility of progress in the next round [of Iran nuclear talks], but it’s going to require that both sides be more flexible and a little more creative,” says the Arms Control Association’s Daryl Kimball in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Whatever happens after the election, the most important thing is that the P5+1 process resumes and that it be a much more dynamic negotiation that is not simply a reiteration of previous well-understood positions,” he said.

Iran expert and Lobe Log contributor Farideh Farhi also warns that inflexibility on both sides will impede a peaceful resolution to this decades-long dispute:

The reality is that the current sanctions regime does not constitute a stable situation. First, the instability (and instability is different from regime change as we are sadly learning in Syria) it might beget is a constant force for policy re-evaluation on all sides (other members of the P5+1 included). Second, maintaining sanctions require vigilance while egging on the sanctioned regime to become more risk-taking in trying to get around them. This is a formula for war and it will happen if a real effort at compromise is not made. Inflexibility will beget inflexibility.

Arguing that a nuclear deal will produce the greatest positive outcomes on all sides, Harvard Kennedy’s Stephen M. Walt also emphasizes the importance of compromise while discussing the regime collapse vs. military option scenarios — the two most likely outcomes given the track that the US is on now:

By contrast, a nuclear deal that gave something to both sides and promised both sides a significant stream of future benefits would give both actors an incentive to stick to the terms. It would also tend to silence the hawks in both camps who push for hardline solutions (i.e., those Americans who favor military force and those Iranians who might favor actually getting a bomb). The problem here, as my colleague Matt Bunn reminded me yesterday, is that the current level of mistrust makes it hard for either side to convince the other that it will actually deliver the stream of benefits that will have to be part of the deal.

The late negotiation expert Roger Fisher famously recommended giving opponents “yes-sable” propositions: If you want a deal, you have to offer something that the opponent might actually want to accept. In the same vein, Chinese strategic sage Sun Tzu advised “building a golden bridge” for your enemies to retreat across.

Translation: If we want a lasting nuclear deal with Iran, it can’t be completely one-sided. Paradoxically, we don’t want to strong-arm Iran into accepting a deal they hate, but which they are taking because we’ve left them no choice. A completely one-sided deal might be easier to sell here at home, but that sort of deal is also less likely to endure. In order to last, there has to be something in it for them, both in terms of tangible benefits but also in terms of acknowledging Iranian interests and national pride. Otherwise, the deal won’t stick and we’ll be back to the current situation of threat-mongering, suspicion, and strategic distraction. That might be an outcome that a few neo-cons want, but hardly anyone else.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.


One Comment

  1. From a different perspective Iran has already won the game. Its right for enrichment will be accepted, nullifying security council’s inane resolution to halt it. This is a great victory for a country who has stood single-handedly against the West and the East. Secondly, Iran will get to keep the underground facility as an insurance policy.

    If US had a military solution, it would have already used it. If the cyber attacks on Aramco and Qatar were carried out from Iran, this is then a foe that can’t be defeated easily.

    US fell into the trap of its own hubris. Who lost the Shah narrative culminated in Carter’s doctrine and the fifth fleet. The latter will become a liability in any military confrontation.

    At the end of the war, the ask will be “who lost the Saudi Arabia” the prize of second world war according to FDR and the main reason dollar still reigns supreme.

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