Iran Nuclear Talks: A Landmark Achievement, Yet a Long Road Ahead
Iran Nuclear Talks: A Landmark Achievement, Yet a Long Road Ahead

Iran Nuclear Talks: A Landmark Achievement, Yet a Long Road Ahead

The International Crisis Group applauds the 2 April agreement on a framework for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached between Iran and the P5+1/EU3+3 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). This achievement is a triumph of multilateral diplomacy and a testament to the seriousness of purpose, patience and persistence of the negotiators involved in this process.

If finalised by its 30 June deadline and implemented, the nuclear accord could put an end to a prolonged and multidimensional standoff; effectively block overt and clandestine pathways to nuclear militarisation; set a positive precedent for the non-proliferation regime; provide the Iranian people with economic relief; offer a path for normalising Iran’s relationship with the international community; and thus open the door to the possibility of constructive engagement on critical issues of peace and security in the Middle East.

Negotiated outcomes by nature are imperfect. These agreed upon parameters provide Iran with an enrichment capacity higher than the U.S. and its allies preferred, and sanctions relief slower and more circumscribed than Iran desired. But both sides have protected their core interests and rightfully can claim victory – a precondition for any sustainable solution.

This accomplishment is not final; it is as fragile as the forces against it are formidable. It has serious critics in Iran, the U.S. and the region. The most important wildcard are members of the U.S. Congress who maintain that it does not sufficiently restrain Tehran’s nuclear activities. Passing new legislation to thwart this agreement – even though President Obama has committed to veto it – would hinder diplomatic momentum and harm the U.S.’s global standing.

Some fear that the deal will embolden Iran to pursue regional hegemony. But a continuation of the status quo – and more so its deterioration – will not prompt Iranian moderation. Should the negotiations collapse, Iran will accelerate its nuclear program just as the West will step up sanctions. This would lead to a new escalation of tensions in the region and possibly trigger a military confrontation. The agreement’s opponents offer no realistic alternative: there is no better deal attainable, and to hold out for one is to squander this precious opportunity.

It is equally important not to lose sight of regional tensions but to parley this agreement’s positive momentum toward calming them. Both sides should avoid the temptation to take provocative measures against the other in order to demonstrate to their domestic hardliners that nothing else has changed or can change between them. In the run-up to the 30 June deadline and well beyond it, the West should – in cooperation with other regional partners – engage Iran in dialogue over issues of common interest, such as stability in Afghanistan and Iraq and ending the bloodshed in Syria and Yemen. For its part, Tehran should take concrete steps to convince its neighbours that, even as it rehabilitates itself politically and economically, the accord has not come at their expense.

This agreement could turn out to be the most important diplomatic accomplishment in a generation. To secure and sustain it, the parties will have to display the same dedication and discipline that brought them this far.


Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.