November 30, 2007


"A Doable Deal with Iran" (Gareth Evans, 30 November 2007, EU Observer)

The economic arguments advanced for domestically producing, rather than buying in, the fuel for a civil nuclear program are not very persuasive, but the psychological ones are: this is a country seething with both national pride and resentment against past humiliations, and it does want to cut a regional and global figure by proving its sophisticated technological capability.

One might prefer that it had chosen a less sensitive talisman in this respect than enriched uranium - space technology, say - but that die is now cast.

Against this background, the only way forward seems to be to go back to basics, for the international community to draw a new red-line where it matters most - between civilian and military capability - and to enter into unconditional negotiations on that basis. If the objective is not "zero enrichment", but "delayed limited enrichment with maximum safeguards", an agreement is within reach that both Iran and even the most nervous members of the wider international community should be able to sign up to.

The necessary starting point is a time-out, a time-limited "freeze for a freeze" - in which Iran would build no more centrifuges and the international community would add no more sanctions - to enable serious negotiations to take place.

The broad scenario for those negotiations would need to be understood by both sides at the outset, and would involve three basic elements. First, Iran would accept highly intrusive monitoring and inspection regimes, involving not only the application of the NPT Additional Protocol, but some other specially agreed access arrangements.

Second, Iran would spread out over an extended period, in defined stages, its R&D activity and development of enrichment activity, with the end result being an industrial scale facility, but one run as consortium with Iran having international commercial partners.

Third, these arrangements would be accompanied by international incentives, including the staged lifting of sanctions, the normalisation of diplomatic relations and technical support. In addition, there would be equally clear disincentives, including renewed sanctions and potentially even stronger measures, that would apply if any evidence emerged that Iran was pursuing in any way at all a nuclear weapons program.

The advantages of such an outcome for the international community are clear. It could be much more confident that Iran will not pursue a nuclear weapons program of any kind. With a fully normalised relationship with the West, Iran could become a cooperative partner on regional issues of great concern, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon, Hizbollah and Hamas. And there would be many new business opportunities for European and North American companies.

The primary use of negotiations would be to go over Mahmoud's head to Ayatollah Khamenei and further undercut the 12ers headed into the next election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 30, 2007 8:27 AM
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