ISSN 2330-717X

Possible Roadmap To Reduce Risk Of War With Iran


As the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program edges closer to military confrontation, talks may be a way out but require mutual compromise and Western abandonment of the notion that a mix of threats and crippling sanctions will force Iran to back down, according to the International Crisis Group.

In Heavy Waters: Iran’s Nuclear Program, the Risk of War and Lessons from Turkey, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, warns that if the West does not do its utmost to revive the diplomatic option by putting forward a meaningful and realistic offer, it runs the risk of cornering itself in a perilous war. It argues that constructive lessons could be learned from Turkey’s experience in engaging Iran.

“Turkey cannot solve a three-decade old crisis of confidence between Iran and the U.S. ”, says Hugh Pope, Crisis Group’s Turkey/Cyprus Project Director. “But a world community in desperate need of fresh thinking could benefit by testing Ankara’s assumptions about how best to deal with Tehran”.

The situation seldom has been more confusing or worrying. Key players – Israel, the U.S. and Iran – swing from threats and sabre-rattling to more reassuring postures; open talk of a possible future war goes together with secretive acts of hostility, including cyber-attacks, the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists, mysterious explosions in Iran and attacks against Israeli targets in various countries. The West hopes its tough sanctions will compel Iran to compromise. But it is as likely that Tehran will instead lash out.

This is a recipe for intentional or accidental confrontation. The result could be a war with high costs (including possible Iranian retaliatory moves in Iraq, Afghanistan and against Israel) for uncertain gains (a delay in Iran’s nuclear progress countered by the likely expulsion of IAEA inspectors, intensified determination to acquire a bomb and accelerated efforts to do so).

By contrast, Turkey believes in direct, energetic engagement with Iranian officials, holds that Tehran’s right to enrich on its soil ought to be acknowledged upfront and is convinced small steps are better than nothing. With Iran’s positive response to an offer of talks, an opportunity for diplomacy exists through:

  • recognition of Iran’s right in principle to enrich on its soil, subject to it settling outstanding issues with the IAEA on alleged past weaponisation experiments and implementing stricter IAEA safeguards for both nuclear and allegedly related non-nuclear research facilities;
  • revival of a nuclear fuel rod supply deal for the Tehran Research Reactor, including a temporary freeze of Iran’s 20 per cent uranium enrichment and phase-out of its 20 per cent enriched existing stockpile;
  • in exchange, freezing of the latest U.S. and European Union sanctions and gradual rollback of earlier ones; and
  • in parallel, U.S.-Iranian talks on other aspects of their bilateral relationship.

It also will be essential for all parties to end hostile behaviour and provocative rhetoric, including threats to attack and involvement in bombings or assassinations.

“If it is either sanctions, whose success is hard to imagine, or military action, whose consequences are terrifying to contemplate, that is not a choice”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “It is an abject failure”.

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One thought on “Possible Roadmap To Reduce Risk Of War With Iran

  • February 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Iran faces a delicate issue. On the one hand it wants to show the world all it’s got and put it at ease, while on the other hand it fears that such show ‘n tell will give its enemies a roadmap to bomb it.
    Saddam Hussein faced a similar dilemma ten years ago. Though he wanted the world to know he had nothing to hide, he also wanted to bluff his archenemy Iran into believing Iraq still had WMD.
    Bluffing did not go well for Saddam, and it might not go well for Ahmadinejad.
    But since the price tag for ridding Saddam proved high, maybe we ought to reflect what we are asking of Iran now. On the eve of a threatened attack, we are asking it to take us to the depths of its arsenal and show us all it’s got.
    Such great expectations are a sign we have been talking to our friends too long and are in need of a broader perspective. Exactly when was the last time we asked Pakistan, India, China or Russia to show us their arsenal?
    “But those countries are not advocating the destruction of Israel.”
    True, but Israel is not a thorn on their side either.
    Surely, however, we can see beyond the hyperboles and figure out their underlying purpose. Or have we forgotten that not all Iranians are thrilled with Ahmadinejad?
    He sure hasn’t forgotten.
    Nor has he forgotten that that his countrymen hate Israel even more. So he tells them that Israel will be wiped from the face of the earth. Expectantly, this nonsense unites them against a common enemy. It is even a diversion from the misery and isolation brought on by his theocratic regime.
    Quite clever work by Ahmadinejad — and not a rial spent or a bullet fired.
    So why are we letting the crazy talk about destroying Israel get us all worked-up — to the point of turning the world topsy-turvy again.
    Can we not see the desperate attempts of an unpopular regime simply trying to hold on?


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