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Re-Orienting US-Iran Negotiations Into the US's Favor

Re-Orienting US-Iran Negotiations Into the US's Favor

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Published by Ben Turner
A paper describing the lack of US-Iran negotiations and why the US needs to change its Iran policy quickly, as Iran has been strengthening its negotiating position for the last two decades.
A paper describing the lack of US-Iran negotiations and why the US needs to change its Iran policy quickly, as Iran has been strengthening its negotiating position for the last two decades.

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Published by: Ben Turner on May 05, 2009
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05/11/2014

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TO: Professor William HabeebFROM: Ben TurnerCLASS: MSFS-623: International NegotiationSUBJECT: Re-Orienting American Negotiation Strategy with Iran
I. Introduction
The negotiations between the United States and Iran since the Islamic Revolutionin 1979 can be characterized plainly by an utter lack of official negotiation. Ever sincethe American-backed Shah was deposed in Iran and replaced by the ayatollahs, Iran andthe US have talked primarily through backchannels, less-than-high-level diplomats, andthrough popular media. With the new American president, Barack Obama, has come unprecedentedmovement from the American camp towards changing the tone of American relationstowards Iran. While Iran has initially reacted with extreme suspicion and skepticism,the argument that the environment is ripe for negotiation can be made. Both nationshave many common goals, such as regional and Iraq security, economic reconciliation,and avoidance of all-out war. Iran is gaining leverage through its nuclear program andthrough increasing its regional influence, making it prudent for the United States tonegotiate with Iran sooner rather than later. With so much to talk about, and at a good time to start negotiating, the mainproblem the two countries will have is establishing a common agenda -- findingZartman's and Berman's "formula" for their two very different Best Alternatives To aNon-Agreement (BATNAs) remain a looming obstacle for anything beyond pre-negotiation (or Zartman's and Berman's "diagnosis" stage) and unfortunately suchBATNAs are well-engrained into both countries' popular mentalities.
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Hopmann, Terrence. "The Negotiation Process and the Resolution of InternationalConflicts", University of South Carolina Press, 1996, pp. 77-85. Also: Habeeb, William."Power and Tactics in International Negotiation", Johns Hopkins, 1988, pp. 29-33.
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 What potential actions can the US take against Iran with a new Obama Administration? What are the levers which would most compel Iran to act favorably to American invocations for new agreement?
II. Background
Both Iran and the US have a long history of grievances against each other. AfterIran underwent the Islamic Revolution, it overthrew the Shah who was receiving American backing and then approved of student-led capture of the American embassy inTehran, famously referring to it as "a den of spies".
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Since that time, Iran has always been deeply upset by the US meddling in its affairs whether it actually was or not.Saddam Hussein, Iran's Iraqi neighbor, saw the Islamic Revolution as an opportunity tostrike -- one of his many miscalculations that led to many peoples' lives lost and aneventual stalemate between Iran and Iraq. The US took Hussein's side in the war,threatened by the Revolution in Iran, furthering distrust between the US and Iran.Later, progressive Iranian leaders would have major trouble consolidating gains indecreasing anti-American sentiment and opening up to the US because of this long,sordid history.By the time President George W. Bush had absorbed the humiliation of the 9/11attacks and labeled Iran as part of an axis of evil, Iran's progressive movement wascompletely derailed -- in fact it would become a theme that American actions wouldalways find harsh Iranian reactions. Bush's further incursion into Iraq, deposingHussein, while at the same time being unable to solve a North Korea in pursuit of nuclear weapons, led Iran to believe that its security was in grave danger from aneoconservative theoretical movement in the American political establishment and thatrecent historical precedence (North Korea) would prove the threat of nuclear arms to beIran's most pragmatic strategy for national security.Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush have used sanctions upon Iran to containit as it has adopted this new nuclear strategy. While this has hurt Iran economically, ithas also played into the hardliners' hands: along with the US halting any negotiations
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PBS Frontline. "American Experience: Jimmy Carter".
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carter/sfeature/sf_hostage.html
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 with Iran, sanctions have helped the Iranian hawks point out to the people that Iran isunder siege from the US and must seek to protect itself through nuclear nationalism.Robert Baer, a former CIA officer and author of the 2009 book "The Devil We Know",about Iran's imperial ambitions, says, "Effective sanctioning of Iran is a dream. Iran’sregime is still standing after thirty years of sanctions—still able to buy anything it wantsfrom China and Russia. Some of America’s closest allies, such as Turkey and Japan,trade with Iran as if there were no sanctions at all."
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From American hawks such as John Bolton to official statements from Iran'sgoverning councils, everyone is in agreement that Iran wants to ensure its capacity to build nuclear weapons, whether it actually builds one or not. At the end of PresidentBush's tenure, he changed his stance on Iran somewhat so that the US would supportEurope's attempts to negotiate with Iran, but this has led to nowhere, probably becausethe terms up for debate are different for the Europeans (international security) and forthe Iranians (regional security and security against Americans), and because the USneeds to be involved in negotiations as the dominant security hegemon. This establishesthe main players in this process as Iran and the US -- no one else has enough influenceor power to affect either nation in its ambitions with the other.On the Europeans' attempts at negotiations with Iran:
"The European talks went nowhere, and six months after the U.S.concessions, the Iranians accelerated their nuclear program by starting to enrichuranium. On the last day of May 2006, under pressure from European allies toopen talks with Tehran, the U.S. offered to join the Europeans at the negotiatingtable but only if Iran first agreed to suspend its program of uraniumenrichment. And, hoping to press the Iranians to comply, Washington spent thenext two years trying in vain to forge a consensus in the U.N. Security Council formeaningful sanctions. Last week, Rice announced that she had agreed to sendBurns despite Iran's firm refusal to stop enriching uranium."
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Baer, Robert.
"The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower", Crown, 2008. Kindleversion, highlight location 4032-34.
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Calabresi, Massimo. "U.S. and Iran: A One-Sided Negotiation", Time Magazine, 21 Jul 08.
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