To Resolve the Iranian Nuclear Issue, Focus on Practical Needs

With the six-month interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries now in effect, negotiations on a comprehensive deal to resolve the Iran nuclear issue get underway in Vienna on February 18th. Implementation of the interim agreement appears to be going smoothly, but prospects for early progress in the upcoming talks are very limited.

Indeed, there is a risk that, from the outset, the parties will lock themselves into entrenched and widely divergent positions that will make it more difficult and time-consuming later to reach agreement. This inaugural Iran @ Saban Essay suggests a way of approaching the negotiations that might reduce those risks and increase the likelihood of early, productive exchanges.

The Essay includes an in-depth analysis of the wide differences between the two sides on enrichment; a careful examination of the practical needs of Iran’s civil nuclear program; and a discussion of ways of cooperating to address Iran’s practical needs. The Essay concludes with recommendations on framing the issue in a more positive way by focusing on practical needs.

Focusing on the realistic, practical needs of Iran’s civil program might demonstrate that what the United States and its P5+1 partners consider necessary to prevent a rapid nuclear breakout capability is not inconsistent with the requirements of a sound and growing Iranian civil nuclear energy program. No matter how the parties approach the upcoming talks, reaching agreement will be hard. But focusing on practical needs could lead to productive exchanges and reduce the likelihood of early stalemate.

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