On October 1, 2009, negotiators from Iran and the United States met around the negotiating table for the first time in three decades. Alongside representatives from the world’s six major powers in Geneva, their conversation aimed to address the increasing concern surrounding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. Carnegie’s Pierre Goldschmidt spoke about those ambitions and the implications for the non-proliferation regime, at an event hosted by Carnegie Europe and moderated by Fabrice Pothier.
Goldschmidt opened the discussion with a reflection on the negotiations’ prospects for success. He stressed that while this round of talks represent a potential starting point for serious negotiations, the main obstacle to resolving the issue through diplomatic means without unacceptable delays is the lack of trust between the parties. Considering the past behaviour of both Iran and the international community, this constitutes a major challenge.
The Enrichment Deal
Goldschmidt also addressed the details of the enrichment deal being discussed between Iran and the United States, Russia and France.
Unless the Security Council agrees to increase sanctions if Iran doesn’t suspend enrichment, which, he said, is highly unlikely at this stage, the deal might be perceived as an implicit acknowledgement that Iran can continue its enrichment activities without facing negative consequences. One can therefore expect that Iran will continue developing more efficient centrifuges at Natanz, Qom, and other possibly still undeclared locations.
A New Compromise
Goldschmidt considered what form of agreement could be acceptable both to Iran and the international community. He outlined five main conditions that Iran would have to fulfill as part of such a deal:
Goldschmidt stressed that the first four conditions require a bare minimum from Iran. They do not include the legally binding United Nations Security Council requirement for Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities, nor the construction of the Arak heavy water research reactor. In return, Iran would receive the following concessions:
If Iran chooses not to accept international cooperation based on the forgiving and fair terms being offered by the United States, Russia and France, then, Goldschmidt argued, the United Nations Security Council must be prepared to impose harsher sanctions, and in particular to suspend any and all military cooperation with Iran. Such a measure has the added benefit that it would not negatively impact the wellbeing of ordinary Iranian citizens. If the Security Council does not take such steps, he warned, and is unable to agree on the balanced approach he has described, it will further undermine the credibility of the non-proliferation regime.
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