Five Options for Iran’s New President

[Author’s note: The views in this paper were presented prior to the Iranian presidential election at the NPT Prepcom on April 25 and publicly at Global Zero event at University of California-Irvine on May 23, 2013 respectively. This paper does not reflect in anyway the official position of the Iranian government.]

Nuclear negotiations lasting more than a decade between Iran and world powers have failed. The talks have been unable to reconcile the concerns voiced by the United States and other parties that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon with Iran’s insistence that its program is strictly peaceful and only intended for civilian energy production.

Publicly, the U.S. and other Western officials blame the failure of nuclear talks on Iran. The key question, however, is whether talks have failed because of the perceived Iranian intention to build a nuclear bomb, or due to the West’s unwillingness to recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium under international safeguards. Former U.S. officials Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, authors of Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, recently addressed this issue, which rarely is part of Iran policy debates in the United States: “Washington’s unwillingness [to recognize the rights of Iran for enrichment] is grounded in unattractive, but fundamental, aspects of American strategic culture: difficulty coming to terms with independent power centers (whether globally or in vital regions like the Middle East); hostility to non-liberal states, unless they subordinate their foreign policies to U.S. preferences (as Egypt did under Sadat and Mubarak); and an unreflective but deeply rooted sense that U.S.-backed norms, rules, and transnational decision-making processes are meant to constrain others, not America itself.”

Iran, as a sovereign state and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is entitled to uranium enrichment. I believe that if Washington recognized Iran’s right to enrich, a nuclear deal could be reached immediately. Without this recognition, no substantial agreement will be possible.

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“Five Options for Iran’s New President,” Hossein Mousavian, Cairo Review, pgs. 68-79. Published by the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, July 2013.