AmericAn security project
Tis overview o U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran shows that, regardless o the outcome o the current talks,diplomatic solutions to the impasse have not been exhausted. Beore turning to aggressive actions that couldprovoke a wider conict in the Middle East, it makes sense to make every eort to engage Iran.
A imeline of U.S.-Iran Diplomacy
Te U.S. broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980, shortly ater Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy inehran and took approximately seventy hostages. U.S. interests in Iran were assumed by the Swiss government;Iran was represented in the U.S. rst by Algeria, then by Pakistan.
For over thirty years, thereore, ace-to-ace negotiations between Iranian and U.S. ofcials have been rare.Discussions o Iran’s nuclear program have been even rarer. A series o events ollowing the diplomatic break (the Iran-Iraq war, Iran Contra Aair, and Iran Air Flight 655)urther estranged the two countries.
1995 saw the rst round o U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. Te U.S.continues to increase sanctions today.
Te atermath o September 11
brought a promising thaw to U.S.-Iranrelations. Iran and the U.S. cooperated on Aghanistan operations in 2001 andparticipated in the 2002 Bonn Conerence on Aghanistan.
Further discussionsbroke down when the U.S. did not take up a 2003 oer rom Iran (transmittedvia Switzerland) or bilateral negotiation o a “grand political bargain.”
2007 saw the rst ormal talks between the U.S. and Iran in 27 years. Te topico discussion was not nuclear, however, but rather the situation in Iraq.Initiating talks on Iran’s nuclear program proved difcult. In 2006, the U.S joinedthe Russia, China, and the EU3 (France, Germany, and the UK) to oer Iran a comprehensive proposal.Te U.S. did not join the EU3 presentation o the proposal in 2006, however. It was not until July 2008 thatthe P5+1 – the EU3 plus Russia, China, and the U.S. – presented a revised version o the June 2006 proposalin a ace-to-ace meeting.Discussions in all 2009 over a uel swap proposal ultimately ell apart. Te P5+1 and Iran resumed talks 14months later, meeting in Geneva in December 2010 and in Istanbul in January 2011.Te 15-month hiatus ollowing these talks was broken in April 2012, when the P5+1 and Iran met in Istanbul.Tis meeting was ollowed by meetings in Baghdad and Moscow. High-level political talks were ollowed by technical talks between EU and Iranian ofcials.
Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program have not yet yielded a lasting, comprehensive agreement on Iran’snuclear program. Some have argued that ailure to achieve an agreement thus ar shows that negotiations willnever work. Tis argument, however, ignores the whole history o negotiations with Iran. A comprehensive look at Iranian nuclear negotiations and the proposals that have resulted shows that progresscan be made through engagement.
Secretary Clinton with EU HighRepresentative Lady Catherine Ashton, September 2011