Reason triumphs over war

2015-04-12 15:00

The deal struck with Iran is globally significant for several reasons. Rami G Khouri dissects the art of diplomacy

The agreed parameters of a joint comprehensive plan of action on Iran’s nuclear programme between Iran and the P5+1 group of six world powers represent a monumental achievement that affirms the power of reason and diplomacy over fear and warfare.

For now, the significant aspects of this development are about the past and the future – the past being the bold leadership of Iran and the US in launching and advancing the diplomatic negotiations, and the future about the potential regional changes that will follow.

More specifically, this is about the capacity of serious and responsible leaders to advance negotiations with the courage and confidence to change long-held positions that had become untenable.

It took great courage for the US and others to accept that Iran had the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under international inspections and safeguards.

For years, the US and Israel, in particular, opposed Iran’s move to maintain enrichment facilities that would allow it to produce its own nuclear fuel.

Israel stuck to its hardline position, but the US realised that threats, sanctions and talk of war had not slowed Iran’s uranium enrichment programme.

Its tacit acknowledgment in 2013 that Iran would maintain its enrichment capabilities opened the door for serious negotiations.

Toning down the constant threats of US military attacks against Iran also helped.

Washington continues to use offensive language about Iran that presupposes Tehran’s deception and mendacity in conducting its policies and negotiations.

Iran understood this was primarily for domestic US and Israeli consumption.

It largely ignored this tone to focus on negotiations, which had to allow that Iran could continue its nuclear programme, including enriching uranium and conducting research and development work for peaceful purposes, and that sanctions against Iran would be lifted.

The Americans and their partners eventually acknowledged both demands.

Iran mustered significant humility and courage to accept the key demands, including the length of the agreement, the nature of inspections and monitoring, the pace of sanctions reduction, and the magnitude and kinds of nuclear materials production facilities.

Iran made these big concessions for two important reasons: reciprocity and respect.

When the Americans and their colleagues started dealing with Iran on the basis that concessions would be made by both sides, and these would happen by respecting the rights of all parties, breakthroughs started to happen.

The agreement moved to consummation in the past year with all negotiators getting their key demands. Israel has been left out for now.

Rarely in modern history have we seen such decisive statesmanship reflecting a rare combination of realism, honesty, humility, boldness and foresight.

The people who conducted this diplomacy join a special group of leaders and officials who deserve worldwide gratitude and appreciation.

They have reminded us of the immense power of negotiating on the basis of reciprocity and respect. – The Nation, distributed by Agence Global

Khouri is senior policy fellow of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.

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