The Iran Nuclear Crisis:

Is an Acceptable Deal Possible?

29/06/2011 | 18:30 - 20:00 | DGAP | Invitation only

Study Groups and Task Forces

Category: Iran, Arms Control and WMD

Since the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, the relationship between the United States and Iran consists mostly of mutual accusations. The US accuses Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, and Iran accuses the US of trying to intervene in its internal affairs and acting out of imperialist motives. The question is: Is there a way out of this crisis? Dr. Steven Miller took on this question at a discussion group at the DGAP on transatlantic relations.

The facts of the case are pretty clear: Iran is the most inspected nation under IAEA supervision and has had to endure more short notice inspections (at most two hours notice) by the IAEA than any other country. And although the IAEA has explicitly stated that there is no conclusive proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the concerns of Western leaders have not abated since President Clinton put Iran on the agenda of the IAEA inspections list. Instead, concerns have steadily increased.

That US policy toward Iran has failed — namely, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapon breakout capability — is clear. However this has been the case for a number of years. The problem now is that no US or Iranian politician can publicly call for talks with Iran, since the population of both countries would view this as retreating in the face of enemy attacks.

But even in Iran, the situation is not as black and white as we might want it to be. It may very well be that most Iranian officials who claim that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program honestly do not know if there is one or not, and assume the latter. This would allow most other officials to honestly speak out publicly against nuclear weapons anywhere in the world.

So what can the world do? What are the possible solutions? For Dr. Miller, a military solution is not feasible. Consequently, both sides would have to agree to a negotiated solution. This will be difficult due to the already mentioned fear of appearing to retreat. However, most of Dr. Miller’s ideas were originally proposed by the Iranians themselves. And today the US would gladly implement most of these suggestions, as they would by and large make an Iranian nuclear weapons program practically impossible to maintain secretly. The real goal can no longer be to prevent Iran of acquiring nuclear technology because they have already achieved this. The real goal must be to put as many economic, technical, or legal hurdles in the way of the Iranians achieving a nuclear weapon. The West should also try to implement as many safeguards (such as 24/7 IAEA inspections) against a secret Iranian breakout of any negotiated solution. This would allow for the most time to prepare for, and react against, an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Although Dr. Miller’s proposals are derived from Iranian proposals, there are of course many more issues that would have to be discussed before a negotiated settlement could successfully be agreed upon. After all, it is not only Iran who would have to agree to a solution, but other states as well.

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