Press Release by National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
New report details measures that can help secure a final, comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran
Washington, DC - The West can weaken the hardline Iranian narrative of confrontation and resistance and facilitate a comprehensive nuclear deal by collaborating with Iran on scientific projects that carry no proliferation risk, according to a report from the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
The report's authors presented their findings and release the report to the public at a briefing at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC on Wednesday, December 18, 2013.
"Extending Hands & Unclenching Fists" argues that the Iranian election catapulted a seasoned team of Iranian officials who long have sought to improve relations with the West into power, enabling the shift that produced the breakthrough nuclear deal in Geneva last month. This shift in policy and the narrative that underpins it are vital to future breakthroughs, but they have not yet solidified.
To empower the forces behind this shift, the report recommends seven specific projects in the scientific fields to undermine the core of the hardline narrative in Iran: the idea that the West inherently opposes Iran's scientific progress. Potential projects range from collaboration on green energy to a high-profile U.S./E.U.-Iran Science Summit. The report argues that implementing the projects would greatly facilitate diplomatic progress toward a comprehensive nuclear deal and prevent a resurgence of the confrontational policies of the hardliners.
"Ultimately, how we respond to Iran's diplomatic opening has consequences far beyond nuclear diplomacy. It will also determine the future course of Iran for decades to come," said Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and co-author of the report. "The hardline narrative that has blocked progress on nuclear diplomacy, human rights and other issues is sidelined for now. We can facilitate its swift return with new sanctions or discredit it with confidence-building measures in the scientific fields and, ultimately, a win-win comprehensive nuclear deal."
The first phase nuclear agreement followed months of intense multilateral and bilateral discussions between the U.S. and Iran. "The U.S. and its partners have gone all out for a final nuclear deal, but reaching the finish line will require innovative diplomacy beyond the nuclear file," said NIAC Research Director Reza Marashi. "Groundbreaking U.S.-Iranian collaboration in the scientific sphere can build confidence on each side and help ensure that those seeking a nuclear deal in Iran can deliver."
The study relies on interviews with senior Iranian officials, intellectuals and businessmen, as well as with decisionmakers and stakeholders in the United States. The authors, renowned Iranian analyst Bijan Khajehpour, Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi, co-authored an in-depth report in March, "Never Give in and Never Give Up," which described how no Iranian narrative was capable of challenging the hardline narrative at that time. The new report, coming in the wake of the first phase nuclear agreement with Iran, provides a clear view of how political winds have shifted in Iran and how the U.S. can maximize the gains of that shift to facilitate future progress.
"There are many examples of positive steps that the U.S. and other nations can take to build trust for nuclear negotiations and other issues. But progress on scientific cooperation -- such as a joint U.S.-Iran scientific summit, assistance on green technology or reducing air pollution in major Iranian cities -- directly undermines the hardliner notion that the U.S. hopes to block Iran's scientific progress," said Khajehpour. "Thus, progress in the scientific arena would break down distrust and enmity on each side and facilitate a more functional relationship overall."
The Rouhani government has invested substantial political capital in resolving the nuclear impasse, but has warned that the window will not remain open indefinitely. "Rather than view the nuclear program as an end, Rouhani and his team view the nuclear program as a means toward the ultimate goal of recognition and reintegration into the international community as a regional player," said Marashi. "However, if the United States blocks or is perceived as blocking that reintegration, Rouhani and his team will be forced to abandon the positive-sum approach and move closer in line with the hardliner's narrative."
The report's release coincides with continued debate on Capitol Hill over the possibility of passing new sanctions, which the White House has strongly warned against. "The greatest danger to moderates and the positive-sum narrative in Iran is Congress responding to Iran's new-found flexibility with more sanctions," stated Parsi. "But there is also a danger in being overly cautious on issues outside of the nuclear file. Progress in one area can facilitate breakthroughs in others. Following more than three decades of hostility, we need to take advantage of any opportunity to chip away at the institutionalized distrust that has hindered each side."
The report was made possible due to the generous support of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and private donors in the Iranian-American community.
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.
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