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Iranian Nuclear Dispute as a

Ch Challenge ll for f Conflict C fli tR Resolution l ti

Tytti Erästö

‘Managing the Atom’ seminar 17 October 2012

Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School of Government


1. Problems with P5+1 approach

• focus on short‐term goal (making Iran halt fuel cycle activies)

• belief that sanctions can achieve this goal (or at least contain Iran)

shortage / coercive nature of diplomacy

rejecting alternative avenues towards long‐term goal (confidence‐building)

• blindness to the big picture

underlying y gppolitical

conflicts left to escalate

the problem of Iran’s mistrust ignored

P5+1 approach focused on non‐proliferation governance;

few attempts have been made at conflict resolution


2. Iranian nuclear dispute – background

1970s –Western support for Shah’s nuclear program

1979 – the Islamic Republic enmity with the US

1990s – US (and Israeli) suspicions about the end use of Iran’s nuclear

program policy of restricted access to international nuclear market

2002 – news of undeclared sites in Iran US pressure to define reporting

failure as non‐compliance; international suspicions

2003 –US rejects Iran’s offer of bilateral talks EU3‐Iran

negotiations ; voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment activities

2005‐2006 –basis for international sanctions

‐ definition of non‐compliance (IAEA 9/2005)

‐ legally binding demand to suspend uranium

enrichment (UN Security Council 7/2006)


3. The tangle of conflicts in the Iranian nuclear dispute

A) legal‐technical dispute—between

the P5+1 and Iran

‐ uranium enrichment

B) political conflicts between…

USA and Iran—a ‘downward spiral of mutual

hostility and suspicion’

‐each side sees every move of the other

in the worst light possible and responds

accordingly (Limbert 2009)

Israel and Iran—geopolitical rivalry

‐to do with the shift in the balance of

power in the Middle East after the end of

the Cold War (Parsi 2007)


4. The ’dual track’ approach until 2009

I. Pressure

UN sanctions 2006, 2007, 2008

unilateral sanctions by US

military threats by US and UK

II. Diplomacy

hypothetical diplomacy until July 2008

the Security Council’s current demand that Iran suspend its enrichment program

as a precondition for talks is humiliating, and it is no surprise that Iran has

rejected it (Blix 2008)

It was incomprehensible and somewhat naive to ask Iran—or any country for that

matter—to give up everything before the start of talks and expect a positive

response (ElBaradei 2011)


5. Lessons learned in 2009

the approach that we’ve been taking, which is no diplomacy, obviously has not worked (Obama 5/2009)

– NEGOTIATION diplomacy and dialogue

NNegotiation ti ti iis th the process of f combining bi i

divergent/conflicting positions through

communication into a joint decision

conflict management is accomplished above all

by negotiation (Zartman 2008)

– TRUST‐BUILDING reconciliatory rhetoric

There are social situations which… do not allow the possibility of ’rational’… behavior as long

as the conditions for mutual trust do not exist (Deutsch 1958)

conflict between parties who do not recognize the existence and legitimacy of one another

is more difficult to resolve than conflict in which there is such recognition (Deutsch 1973)

– REFRAMING focus from UN demands to fuel swap deal; implicit recognition

of Iran’s right to enrich uranium

negotiation is… about meeting the needs of both parties through generating creative

options, discovering new insights, and altering the name of the game (Putnam 2010)


6. Missed opportunities

– Iran’s rejection of the fuel swap deal 10/2009

abandonment of diplomacy by the US

P5+1’s rejection of Iran‐Turkey‐Brazil deal 5/2010

P5+1 dynamics

the danger with any coalition is that group solidarity and

coalition maintenance can become ends in themselves,

leading to rigid and inflexible bargaining positions

( (Hampson & Hart 1999) )

US‐Iranian conflict = an institution

too many forces on both sides calculate that they can

better advance their own narrow interests by retaining

the status quo, or the predictability of enmity is preferred

tto th the unpredictability di t bilit of f peace‐making. ki (P (Parsii2012) 2012)


7. Iranian perspective

a) PRINCIPLE, PRESTIGE AND JUSTICE

’inalienable’ right to nuclear technology, including the fuel cycle

b) LACK OF TRUST IN THE P5+1 (and the US)

– unclarity about P5+1’s P5+1 s end goals

avoidance of concessions

–threat of military strikes

need d for f effective ff ti deterrent d t t

– exclusion from international nuclear energy market

need to maximize energy independence

c) ECONOMICS

oil‐dependent economy; investments in the nuclear program


8. The P5+1 approach after 2009

I. Pressure

• UN Security Council resolution June 2010

• US‐EU unilateral sanctions since 2010

II. Diplomacy

‐ talks in January 2011 and April‐June 2012

‐ no viable compromise proposals on the table

Escalation is a dynamic conflict, an effort to prevail in a contest between those

incompatible positions. When one party decides to increase its efforts, the other may

decide to give in or to increase its own efforts too. And so it goes. (Zartman 2008)

dissonance theorists… suggest …that in the course of conflict, a person who has chosen

a course of action and feels responsible for it will become even more committed to it if

he experiences unexpected difficulty, pain, or loss as a consequence of his choice.

(Deutsch 1973)


9. Summary: challenges to conflict resolution

– NOT ONE BUT SEVERAL, INTERCONNECTED CONFLICTS

• nuclear diplomacy hostage to US‐Iranian conflict and related dynamics of mutual

mistrust / domestic constraints

– YET CONFLICT AWARENESS NOT INFORMING STRATEGY

• ffocus on norm‐enforcement f tiinstead t dof f conflict fli t managementt

• at the same time, conflicts keep escalating—partly as a result of punitive measures

– P5+1 INFLEXIBILITY IN SEARCHING FOR COMPROMISE

• absolute ban on enrichment fixed through UN resolutions and sanctions;

pressure for consistency; US ambivalence regarding its relationship with Iran

– WEAKNESS OF MEDIATORS IN INFLUENCING OUTCOMES

• EU 2003‐2005; Turkey and Brazil 2010


10. What is needed to resolve the conflict(s)

Good analysis of the conflict… helps determine which strategy and tactics are likely to be effective (Kriesberg 2009)

– PERSISTENT EFFORTS TO NEGOTIATE

we should… not let temporary setbacks, intemperate statements, unexpected reversals, inexplicable delays, and other

problems to distract us and to declare negotiations useless… useless… because we…have not reached immediate agreement on

issues that have divided us for years… (Limbert 2009)

– TRUST‐BUILDING BETWEEN US AND IRAN

US decision to abandon the goal of regime change

US‐Iranian understanding about end goals; reconciliatory rhetoric

The American negotiator… should look for unambiguous, mutually acceptable standards that avoid legal

jargon and technicalities (Limbert 2009)

– REFRAMING THE NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS

search for compromise formula based on recognition of Iran’s right to enrich

At present the public tends to look at negotiations as a matter... in which our concessions are losses and theirs are

gains gains… Negotiations in search for a formula and its details permits a more positive and creative attitude. attitude

(Zartman 2008)

de‐escalation in the short term; conflict resolution in the long term

seeking truly durable resolutions to… conflicts means avoiding short‐term or even medium‐term solutions that

primarily serve the interests of those in power Otherwise we continue to revisit the same conflicts

primarily serve the interests of those in power. Otherwise we continue to revisit the same conflicts

(Bossermann & McCormick 1996)

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