London, 21 May 2012
- A deal can be done, in the upcoming Baghdad talks on Iran’s nuclear programme.
- The mood has shifted and has become potentially more amenable to compromise.
- An understanding has already been reached on both sides to the principle of reciprocity.
- New report from Oxford Research Group examines how a deal can be reached.
A new report by Oxford Research Group (ORG) analyses how the deadlock over Iran’s controversial nuclear programme could be overcome. It identifies the key principles for reaching a deal in the nuclear talks, involving the Director of the IAEA, on Monday 21 May, and in the crucial negotiations on Wednesday 23 May in Baghdad between Iran and the six E3+3 states (US, UK, China, Russia, France and Germany).
Turning this into a comprehensive agreement will not be easy. “For a deal to be done, negotiations will need to be held without preconditions”, argues ORG in its new report, ‘Iran’s Nuclear Impasse: Breaking the Deadlock’(1).
ORG recently engaged in a series of confidential consultations with a group of individuals close to the decision-making process on the Iranian nuclear file, with the aim of coming up with a workable and realistic solution. Gabrielle Rifkind, Director of ORG’s Middle East programme, and report Co-Author, said, “The impasse will not easily be broken after 30 years of acrimony. But our consultations have clarified that there are sufficient areas of agreement that would allow for a successful negotiation between Iran and the West that would prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state.”
The report follows talks in Istanbul between Iran and the E3+3 on 14 April, and talks at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week. It gives a detailed account of the key obstacles the respective parties face at the upcoming Baghdad talks, and attempts to provide real solutions for overcoming the missteps and failures of past attempts at breaking the deadlock. It identifies a set of tangible steps on the conduct, structure and sequencing of negotiations for talks to be successful, for example:
- Iran’s legitimate rights to enrichment will need to be recognised.
- Iran will have to demonstrate to the complete satisfaction of the IAEA that it has foresworn all research and activities pertaining to the weaponisation of its nuclear programme.
- The political endgame has to be agreed from the outset, foregoing short-term tactical gains.
- A “balance of advantage” has to be created; the negotiations need to be phased and incentivised for all parties to “win“ at each successive phase of the negotiations.
- Building trust between Iran and the E3+3 states is key and Iran needs to be reintegrated into the regional security architecture.
- The importance of a parallel process of ‘Track II’ talks to complement the negotiations, involving respected figures to try to overcome the climate of mistrust.
Gabrielle Rifkind said: “While talk of a “grand bargain” is premature and untenable at the present time, a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear file is possible, and crucial for regional and international security. There is cautious optimism emerging from the preparatory talks as the mood has shifted. An understanding has now been reached on both sides to the principle of reciprocity and addressing mutual security concerns. However, it will take time to create a climate, in which the motives of the other are not viewed with suspicion and mistrust, and which is why an additional process of talks to support the official negotiations is vital.”
Prof Paul Rogers, ORG’s Global Security Consultant, said: “Successful negotiations are indispensable, as the consequences of a conflict with Iran would have a devastating effect. However difficult, other ways must be found to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.”
The Report is co-authored by Gabrielle Rifkind, ORG’s Middle East Programme Director; Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, Researcher on ORG’s Iran Project; and Paul Ingram, Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC).
ORG has been working on the Iran nuclear issues for six years and has produced widely quoted briefings and reports. For more information, read: ‘Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects’ (2010) and ‘Iran: Consequences of a War’ (2006), both by Paul Rogers, and ‘Talking to the Enemy: Creating New Structures for Negotiations’ (2011) by Gabrielle Rifkind.