Western diplomats are still getting it wrong on Iran.
The outcome of talks between Iran and the P5+I (France, Germany, Russia, UK, US and China) in Istanbul back in April gave hope to those who believe that war is no solution to the dispute with Iran. But, a month later, it's already unclear whether the west intends to honour promises made in Istanbul.
Lady Ashton has informed reporters of her expectations for another round of talks between Iran and P5+1 on 23 May: "My ambition is that we come away with the beginning ofthe end of the nuclear weapons programme in Iran." Her words give a hint of how western diplomats still struggle to understand the Iranian mindset mind·set or mind-set
1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.
2. An inclination or a habit. . Iranians have repeatedly staked their honour on their assurance that Iran does not want nuclear weapons. The IAEA IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency. , US intelligence experts and Israeli intelligence experts are agreed that Iran is not building nuclear weapons and has not decided to do so.
Diplomatic blunders like this one can at least be put right by a further statement. The failure to honour promises, however, will deliver a mortal blow to the negotiating process launched last month.
At talks in Istanbul in April, it had been announced that discussions would be guided by the principles of reciprocity and a step-by-step approach. Most observers understood this to mean that the fruit of negotiations would be harvested at intervals coming or happening with intervals between; now and then.
See also: Interval , and that each harvest would consist of two baskets of concessions, roughly equal in value.
To put it simply, the Iranian basket would contain measures extending beyond those Iran is required to concede, and has conceded, as a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)
officially Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
International agreement intended to prevent the spread of nuclear technology. It was signed by the U.S. (NPT NPT National Pipe Taper (pipe thread specification)
NPT Non-Proliferation Treaty
NPT Nonprofit Times
NPT Newport (Rhode Island)
NPT Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
NPT Neath Port Talbot )--in order to increase western and Israeli confidence that Iran will not divert nuclear material to a clandestine military programme. The P5+1 basket, on the other hand, would mainly contain sanctions "relief" and the progressive lifting of the sanctions that the US, EU and UN have heaped on to Iran's back since 2006.
Yet now the terms of the bargain appear to have changed. According to an Iran specialist at the Brookings Institution Brookings Institution, at Washington, D.C.; chartered 1927 as a consolidation of the Institute for Government Research (est. 1916), the Institute of Economics (est. 1922), and the Robert S. Brookings Graduate School of Economics and Government (est. 1924). , quoted in the Christian Science Christian Science, religion founded upon principles of divine healing and laws expressed in the acts and sayings of Jesus, as discovered and set forth by Mary Baker Eddy and practiced by the Church of Christ, Scientist. Monitor, US administration officials are sayino' "Sanctions relief is not on the table unless and until we see substantial Iranian concessions." This does not sound like an approach "guided by the principle of reciprocity". From a European capital, meanwhile, comes a report that the EU is reluctant to accept that initial Iranian concessions will have to be bought through substantial sanctions relief or removal.
The US has always been likely to find the removal of sanctions problematic. The authority to lift US sanctions rests with Congress, not the administration. Anti-Iranian feeling is strong in. Getting Congress to agree to sanctions removal is going to be a hard slog. But the administration has latitude to offer sanctions relief. EU regulatory procedures are simpler. It's open to the Council of Ministers, which on 23 January decided to impose restrictions on importing oil from Iran, to reverse that decision (a potential double relief, since European petrol prices would probably fall).
So what seems to be lacking is political will to offer concessions on sanctions at an early stage of the post-Istanbul process. An EU statement on 7 May offers a clue to one alternative that may be under consideration. "Iran must suspend its enrichment activities and heavy water-related projects," said the EU representative. Since EU members know fully well that, even under duress, Iran will never suspend these programmes, this EU insistence on suspension must have some ulterior purpose: the creation of a negotiating "concession", perhaps?
Yet Iran has made clear it wants sanctions concessions in return for the enrichment restrictions the west wants--not the dropping ofwestern insistence on suspension. Iran has long seen the UN resolutions that enshrine en·shrine also in·shrine
tr.v. en·shrined, en·shrin·ing, en·shrines
1. To enclose in or as if in a shrine.
2. To cherish as sacred. the suspension demand as illegitimate, an abuse of authority, since those resolutions are not based on a finding that Iran's nuclear activities represent a threat to peace. (How could these activities threaten peace in the absence of evidence that Iran is building or has decided to build nuclear weapons?) So dropping the suspension demand is not going to butter many parsnips.
This sort of miscalculation mis·cal·cu·late
tr. & intr.v. mis·cal·cu·lat·ed, mis·cal·cu·lat·ing, mis·cal·cu·lates
To count or estimate incorrectly.
mis·cal may betray a continuing western delusion. Numerous statements since Istanbul suggest western ministers and officials continue to overestimate Iranian susceptibility to the diplomatic application of western power.
There are circumstances, such as the 1995 Dayton peace process, in which the diplomatic application of power can be an effective dispute resolution tool. But since 2005 it has failed to work on Iran. Having what it takes to survive western aggression is vital to Iran's sense of self. Successful defiance enables Iran to demonstrate to itself and to other non-aligned countries that Iran is on the way back from 200 years of humiliation at western (and Russian) hands.
If the west wants a negotiated agreement, it must play straight. The west has promised reciprocity. A failure to respect that promise will produce yet another lost opportunity, to the detriment ofthe western interest in reduced tensions in south-west Asia and to the continuing cost of western living standards.
Peter Jenkins was Britain's permanent representative to the IAEA, 2001-06, and is now a partner in AADRg Ambassadors for Diplomacy and Dispute Resolution.