Zeit zum Reden / Time to talk: THE CASE FOR DIPLOMATIC SOLUTIONS ON IRAN
Eine britische Studie plädiert für diplomatische Lösungen im Atomstreit mit dem Iran
Eine am 5. Februar 2007 in Großbritannien veröffentlichte Studie warnt vor katastrophalen
Folgen eines Krieges gegen Iran. Er könnte den benachbarten Irak weiter destabilisieren und alle Nahost-
Friedenshoffnungen untergraben. Zugleich würde man Irans nukleare Bestrebungen stärken und eine Aufkündigung der Mitgliedschaft im Atomwaffensperrvertrag provozieren. Es besteht Furcht,
das globale Wirtschaftsgefüge durch höhere Ölpreise zu schocken.
Der Bericht ist von britischen Menschenrechtsgruppen, den drei großen Gewerkschaften,
sogenannten Think-Tanks wie dem Foreign Policy Centre sowie von Nichtregierungsorganisationen
wie Oxfam und Pax Christi veröffentlicht worden. Der frühere Botschafter Londons in Iran, Richard
Dalton, meint, die westlichen Regierungen seien verpflichtet, im Atomkonflikt mit dem Iran alle
diplomatischen Optionen auszuschöpfen. "Die Konsequenzen einer Militäraktion gegen den Iran
wären nicht nur widerwärtig, sie sind undenkbar", sagte der Chef des Foreign Policy Centre,
Stephen Twigg. Insbesondere London wird aufgefordert, Druck auf die USA auszuüben, um
diplomatisch zu Lösungen zu kommen.
Im Folgenden dokumentieren wir die Zusammenfassung der Studie sowie deren dritten Teil, der die Empfehlungen (Recommendations) der Autoren an die Politik enthält. Der Bericht ist in Englisch verfasst.
The prospect of a nuclear Iran causes acute concern not only in
the United States and Israel, but also in Europe, the Middle East
and most of the rest of the world. This report does not seek to
quantify the likelihood of military action against Iran. It argues
that the consequences of any possible future military action could
be wh o l ly counterproductive as well as highly dangerous. Diplomatic
solutions to the Iranian nuclear issue must be pursued resolutely.
Iran’s nuclear programme – a cause for international concern?
The Iranian administration insists that its nuclear activities are directed solely
towards a civil nuclear power programme. However, many states share the
conviction that Iran is dedicated to becoming a nuclear weapons power and
that it must not be allowed to develop the capability of producing nuclear weapon
materials. The problem is that a fully indigenous civil nuclear power programme
involves all the dual-use technology necessary to produce military fissile material.
Iran has enjoyed considerable domestic and some international support for its
refusal to relinquish its legal entitlements, including from the Arab League and the
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), but its record of misleading International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors has eroded international confidence in Iran’s
intentions and its willingness to agree to watertight controls on its nuclear
Since the international community was alerted to Iran’s secret nuclear activities
in 2002, various diplomatic strategies have been pursued. Despite many setbacks
some important progress has been achieved, such as the involvement of the major
players (China, France, Russia, the US, the UK and Germany), albeit indirectly in
the case of the US, and the formulation of serious incentives to induce Iranian
cooperation. Still, many within the US and Israeli administrations remain sceptical
that diplomacy can deliver. Accordingly, the military option not only remains on
the table but is also a real possibility in 2007.
Though debate has largely centred on Iran’s uranium enrichment activities,
Iran could also build a nuclear weapon by reprocessing plutonium. To ensure
that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon capability, both of these routes
would have to be blocked. The civil nuclear power reactor in Bushehr is due
to be started in September 2007 (nuclear fuel supplied by Russia will be on site
from March 2007).1 Beyond this date, military strikes on Bushehr could unleash
nuclear contamination so severe that it is unlikely that such strikes would be
undertaken from that point forth. If Bushehr is on the list of targets, these
considerations could hasten any plans for military action.
Consequences of possible military action
A US or Israeli led attack on Iran would likely unleash
a series of negative consequences. These might include:
IRAN’S NUCLEAR AMBITIONS STRENGTHENED:
Strengthened Iranian nuclear ambitions;
- Even greater instability in the Middle East and
broader region, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan;
- Inflammation of the ‘war on terror’;
- Exacerbated energy insecurity and global economic hardship;
- Damage to developed and developing economies;
- Environmental degradation; and
- Civilian casualties.
It is expected that if military action were undertaken it could deepen the resolve of the Iranian regime to become a nuclear weapons power and would likely lead to Iran’s withdrawal from the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The threat of Iran building a nuclear
weapon could intensify, possibly prompting further proliferation in the region.
Iran’s links with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the
West Bank and Gaza as well as Shia constituencies in Iraq, Afghanistan and
the Gulf States make regional retaliation against any military attack on Iran
likely. UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan could be particularly vulnerable,
with significant losses possible. The notion of a limited engagement in
Iran is likely to prove as illusory there as it has in Afghanistan and Iraq.
WAR ON TERROR INFLAMED:
An attack on Iran would be perceived by some
as an aggression towards the Muslim world, fuelling anti-Western sentiment
and giving renewed impetus to extremists at home and abroad.
ENERGY CHAOS: Iran has the world’s second largest hydrocarbon reserves and
is currently the fourth largest oil producer. A disruption to the Iranian oil supply
could cause havoc in the global oil market. Iranian attempts, or even threats, to
attack oil transit through the Straits of Hormuz could send oil prices over $100
The EU, which is partially dependent on Iranian oil
supplies, could feel the squeeze and possibly even experience recession.
Inflationary pressure would damage consumer confidence in the EU and the US.
In developing countries, a rise in oil prices could cause GDPs to fall, exacerbating
poverty and effectively undermining debt relief.
Military action against nuclear establishments
could unleash severe radioactive contamination. Aerial bombardments or sabotage
could lead to contamination through oil slicks and oil well fires.
IMPACT ON IRANIAN CIVILIANS:
In Iran, the impact of any military action
on the civilian population could be acute. The notion that military strikes would
be targeted and surgical is ill founded. Iran’s nuclear facilities are located near
densely populated towns, and those living or working nearby would be at serious
risk. It is likely that US war planners would also target military assets beyond the
nuclear facilities in anticipation of counterattacks, increasing the risk to civilians.
Military action is not likely to be a short, sharp engagement but could
have a profound effect on the region, with shock waves felt far beyond.
Diplomacy is the only viable option
Iran has proved to be a difficult negotiating partner. But it cannot be said that the
potential for diplomacy has been explored fully when direct talks between Iran and
the US have not taken place. The major obstacle to full negotiations - namely, the
requirement that Iran stop enriching uranium before direct talks with the US can
begin - remains in place. If concessions are to be won, not only on the nuclear file
but also on broader regional issues, there is more work to be done on elaborating
the June 2006 package of incentives to address some of Iran's fundamental
concerns, particularly in relation to security guarantees. The idea of a 'Grand
Bargain' should not be dismissed outright. Real diplomatic options still exist, if a
face-saving solution can be found to convince the protagonists to approach the
table. The possible consequences of military action could be so serious that
governments have a responsibility to ensure that all diplomatic options have been
exhausted. At present, this is not the case.
The UK government is well positioned to articulate objections to military action.
Military action against Iran would work against the interests of the UK. The UK
should not lose this opportunity to advocate for direct US engagement;
strengthening the hand of reformists inside Iran by being seen to treat it fairly and
thereby laying foundations for a more functional relationship with Iran in the future.
SECTION THREE: DIPLOMATIC OPTIONS
(p. 19-21; without endnotes)
3.1 Development of negotiations
Following the Paris Agreement of November 2004, proposals
and counterproposals have travelled back and forth between
European and Iranian negotiators. Washington has avoided
becoming directly involved in negotiations but did agree to
endorse the most recent P5+1 proposals, which centre on
the cessation of uranium enrichment as a precondition for
For their part, it is clear that Iranian proposals made in 2005
emphasized a broad regional security approach, including
action against terrorism (indicated by a stated willingness
to rein in the violent actions of Hamas and Hezbollah and
to see to their disarmament and integration into the political
structures of Palestine and Lebanon), further agreement to
reinforce respect for sovereignty and national security, and
technical and economic cooperation. Throughout, Iranian
negotiators have claimed the right to develop nuclear fuelcycle
technologies and have made clear their intention to
resist demands that they abandon ambitions in this area.
3.2 The June 2006 proposal
The key elements of the P5+1 proposal include:
The willingness of the United States to sit down directly with Iran;
- Recognition of the Isfahan uranium conversion plant;
- An international fuel-cycle centre in Russia involving the Iranians;
- Establishment of a five-year fuel-bank/buffer
stock exclusively for use by Iran;
- Affirmation of Iran’s inalienable right to nuclear energy for
- An energy partnership between Iran, the EU and other willing partners;
- A new political forum to discuss security issues, involving Iran and
other regional states, the US, Russia and China; and
- Trade and investment incentives.
The June package represented a genuine attempt to address
some of Iran’s interests, though it only hinted at some of
Iran’s more fundamental concerns. For example, regarding
security guarantees, the package talks only of ‘dialogue and
cooperation on regional security issues.’
As expected, Iran's counterproposal of 22 August rejected
preconditional suspension of enrichment activities. The
IAEA's deadline for Iran to suspend enrichment by 31 August
2006 passed, and Iran remained defiant. Fo l l owing the ex p i ry
of this deadline two tra cks emerged, with the US sustaining
pre s s u re at the UN for sanctions whilst key EU member states
pursued continued negotiations. In early October, a standstill
in talks led to an increase in pressure to ap p ly sanctions
under A rt i cle 41 of the UN Chart e r. On 23 December 2006,
fo l l owing painful negotiations, the UN Security Council voted
unanimously to impose sanctions on Iran.
3.3 National perspectives
The outcome of policy choices in Washington will be a key
determinant of the future of this dispute. Polls indicate that
only 14% of Americans believe diplomatic measures can
now stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons but that
59% of Americans support negotiations even if Iran refuses
to suspend enrichment.
How long the Bush administration will pursue the path of
diplomacy remains unclear. The Democrats' victory in the
mid-term elections of December 2006, coupled with the
immediate replacement of Donald Rumsfeld with Bob Gates
as Secretary of Defense, has reduced the likelihood of USled
military action in the short-term. However, with
increasing Israeli pressure and mounting speculation that an
Israeli-led strike is viable, those within the US administration
who are petitioning for continued diplomacy may find
themselves on increasingly weaker footing.
If no additional efforts are made to engage, there is a danger
that uncompromising demands for the unilateral suspension
of uranium enrichment will back the US and the EU into a
corner. Diplomacy will fail because it has not been given a
real chance to succeed. If public opinion crystallises around
the belief that Iran has rejected a generous and acceptable
proposal, commitment to further diplomacy will be even less
likely. But any genuine attempt to find non-military solutions
to this conflict must include an assessment of the situation
from the Iranian perspective. A suspension of enrichment
without concrete and well-defined incentives leaves the
Iranians with nothing.
Several high-profile figures within the US political
establishment have called for direct US-Iranian unconditional
negotiations. These include former national Security Advisor
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US Defense Secretary William
Perry, and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright.
Iran set out its objectives in opening negotiations with
the United States clearly in its Spring 2003 proposal, made
soon after President Bush declared victory against Iraq.
An end to the US’s hostile rhetoric towards
and interference within Iran;
- An end to all US sanctions against Iran;
- The ach i evement of a fully democratic gove rnment in Iraq, support
for war rep a rations and respect for legitimate Iranian interests
- Access to nuclear and chemical technology and biotechnology for
- Recognition of Iran’s legitimate security interests within the region;
- A clampdown on anti-Iranian terrorist organizations, especially the
Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO).
Iran believes it has a strong negotiating position that has
not been recognised by the US administration or European
governments. The current situation represents an enormous
opportunity for Iran to normalise its relations with the West
and gain some significant economic and security guarantees.
These are tangible benefits that Iranian moderates recognise
only too well.
On the other hand, the pursuit of nu clear tech n o l ogy and
perhaps a nu clear weapon cap ability has an enormous appeal
for the more uncompromising factions rep resented by
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei. Some within
these groups see the possession of nuclear weapons as a
clear deterrent to US and Israeli aggression as well as the
defining capability for Iran to be the leading regional power.
Many Iranians, conservatives and reformists alike, are also
upset by what they see as a lack of international recognition
of their country’s contribution to the overthrow of the Taliban
in Afghanistan in 2001. Despite clear cooperation within
Afghanistan itself, the US rebuffed offers of negotiation
with Iran, and instead President Bush surprised the Iranian
leadership by labelling Iran as a member of the ‘axis of
evil’ in his 2002 State of the Union address. From the
perspective of many Iranians, the US’s tacit support of Israeli
and Pakistani nuclear weapons programmes and its recent
agreement to supply nuclear-armed India with nuclear
technology is blatant hypocrisy and is illegal under the NPT.
After the splits caused by the invasion of Iraq in 2003
and the war in Lebanon in 2006, EU/E3-Iranian negotiations
are widely seen as a test case for a unified and effective
European foreign policy. The EU initially viewed Iran’s
temporary suspension of enrichment in November 2004
as a success, but Iran stresses that it was a voluntary Iranian
initiative on which the EU failed to capitalise. The EU/E3 saw
the resumption of Iranian enrichment operations in August
2005 as an affront to their position and hardened their
stance. Opposition to military action is currently widespread,
though key leaders (notably Tony Blair and Angela Merkel)
have refused to rule it out, believing the threat to be an
important negotiating tool.
The UK government shares many of the US’s concerns about
Iran and agrees that preventing Iran from developing a nuclear
weapon is a strategic priority. In 2006, then Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw said that an attack on Iran would be ‘inconceivable.’
Shortly afterwards, in a cabinet reshuffle, Margaret Beckett
replaced Straw as Foreign Secretary. Since taking up office,
Beckett has reiterated that the goal of the UK and the EU is to
solve the Iranian nu clear issue through diplomatic means, but
she has questioned whether Iran is serious about negotiations
and has stopped short of rep e ating Straw’s comments that
military action was inconceivable.
Russia and China are anxious to prevent Iran from acquiring
nuclear weapons. Russia, in particular, is fearful of the
expansion of Islamic extremism. They both have strong
interests in spoiling any durable rapprochement between
Iran and the West that would undermine their current and
future interests in Iran.
Russia is committed to finishing the Bushehr reactor and
supplying it with fuel rods for start-up in 2007. It has also
invested heavily in the Iranian oil industry’s infrastructure.
With an increasingly adversarial relationship with the US and
Europe, inflamed by the imposition of US sanctions in 2006
on two state-owned Russian companies for violation of the
Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), the chances of Russian
support for increasingly tougher measures appear remote.
Inevitably, China’s growing hunger for energy largely
determines its foreign policy towards Iran and the Central
Asian states to the north, and Chinese government officials
have consistently called for a negotiated resolution of the
dispute. Chinese diplomacy has focused on avoiding its
own isolation, shying away from confrontation with the US
in a manner that could harm relations but remaining open
to joint opposition with Russia.
3.4 Alternative solutions
The route to a solution starts with identifying what
each party ultimately hopes to achieve. Despite the US
administration’s rejection of the term, a resolution to
the current standoff could well take the form of a ‘Grand
Bargain,’ with elements of the June 2006 proposal further
developed through unconditional talks. This would involve
addressing a range of security, economic and energy-related
questions, as part of a process of normalisation in USIranian
relations. Given the clear indication that military
strikes would be counterproductive and highly damaging
to US interests, the US may conclude that its objective of
regime reform in Iran could be better achieved by puncturing
Ahmadinejad’s demonisation of the US through engagement.
The P5+1 would be wise to give proper consideration
to Iran’s August 2006 counterproposal. Though apparent
breakthroughs in the Iranian nuclear programme (for
example, Ahmadinejad’s inauguration of the heavy water
production plant at Arak on 26 August 2006) give the
impression of urgency, there is time to talk. Most experts,
including those within the US Defense Intelligence Agency
and the IAEA, do not believe Iran can create a nuclear
weapon before 2009 or 2010 at the earliest.
The UK should operate on two tracks: supporting
EU initiatives and working with the US administration to
broker direct engagement with Iran. Flexibility, aimed at
closing off the easier routes to developing nuclear weapons
while ensuring remaining sensitive activities (such as limited
enrichment) are closely scrutinized through rigorous
inspections, could open up more palatable options for
engagement in the future. Efforts to achieve these goals
could be assisted by the explicit identification of those
technologies that present the greatest threats of proliferation
and an agreement on this analysis.
Iran's negotiators will most likely seek more detailed and
specific security guarantees. As recommended in the Baker
report, engaging with Iran on broader regional security
issues could potentially be favourable. More than economic
incentives, security cooperation has the potential not only to
undermine Iranian ambitions for a nuclear weapon
programme, but also to provide an opportunity to discuss
Iranian support for radical groups in Iraq, Lebanon and
Palestine and perhaps to achieve concessions there as well.
Recent events in Lebanon and its growing influence in Iraq
and Afghanistan have raised Iran's status, and the Iranian
leadership is looking for some acknowledgement of this. The
idea of a 'Grand Bargain' cannot be rejected outright.
Even according to the worst-case scenario, there is time for
further diplomacy. This time should be used to build
confidence between the negotiating part n e rs, helping to break
cycles of mutual hostility, and to develop Iranian interests in
established and potential political and economic relationships
with the international community. The possible consequences
of military action could be so serious that gove rnments have a
responsibility to ensure that a l l diplomatic options have been
exhausted. At present, this is not the case.
The UK has a role to play in catalysing this process,
mediating between EU member states and the US. Through
genuine commitment to the diplomatic process, the UK can
indicate that it is willing to treat Iran fairly in negotiations,
which would strengthen the hand of moderates within Iran
and send an important signal to the Iranian people.
The diplomatic track is clearly fraught with difficulties.
But as long as fundamental obstacles remain in place –
such as preconditions concerning the suspension of Iran’s
enrichment activities – the potential of diplomacy cannot
fully be tapped. Diplomatic strategies are most likely to
progress if the UK government and other key parties agree:
To either remove preconditions for negotiations or find a
compromise that allows both the US and Iran to move forward
without having to concede on their respective red lines;
- To seek direct negotiations between Iran and the US;
- To prioritise proposals and demands by assessing the security
risks associated with the different technologies being developed by
Iran (i.e. enrichment and reprocessing) and to agree to this
assessment within the UN Security Council – Iran’s plans to use
reprocessing technology should be addressed promptly;
- To develop the proposals offered by the P5+1 on 6 June 2006 in
return for tighter inspections and a commitment from Iran to
abandon all ambitions towards reprocessing (as offered by the
Iranians in 2005);
- To explicitly address mutual security guarantees for the US, Israel
The UK has an important role to play in fostering a climate
of pragmatism. It is recommended that the UK government
continue to give full backing to the diplomatic process whilst
directly addressing the need for full and direct negotiations
between Iran and the US administration. The time available
should be used to build confidence on both sides, and the
UK has a crucial role to play in supporting that process. Only
through direct US-Iranian engagement can an agreement be
found and the potentially devastating consequences of
military action be avoided.
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