Can the West trust Iran? – if the EU and the US stand together they don’t have to

From left to right: Dr. Emily B. Landau, Jan Techau, Dr. Reuel Marc Gerecht

On January 20th, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had been implementing its commitments according to the Joint Plan of Action agreed with the so-called E3+3, also known as P5+1[1], in Geneva on 24 November 2013. The negotiations have, however, not clearly stated what is to follow the interim deal. The agreement of a two-step process raises questions on the comprehensive solution to be implemented by November 2014. If no agreement is reached on a comprehensive solution by 20 July 2014, the action plan can be renewed by mutual consent. According to experts, the latter might well be the likeliest outcome of the current negotiations. Apart from the differing negotiating positions, issues internal to the P5+1 and the Iranian regime will be defining the outcome of the negotiations.

While it is too early to say whether Geneva was a breakthrough, it would not have come about without close transatlantic foreign policy cooperation. Thus, the negotiations with Iran may also be a good opportunity to assess the IMG_1545current state of transatlantic relations. At an event FNF organised in Brussels in cooperation with the Transatlantic Institute of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Dr. Emily B. Landau, Director Arms Control and Regional Security Project and Senior Research Associate at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), discussed the prospects for success of the negotiations and if the West can trust Iran. In her view, the negotiators should not trust Iran; however they should listen closely to their demands. She clearly stated that there is enough evidence to confirm that the Iranian government has been working on a military nuclear programme. Furthermore, the Iranians will not shut down all the centrifuges and will continue research on advanced centrifuges which would allow them to continue working on their military programme. Against this background, Dr. Landau called upon the negotiators to use the leverage created by the sanctions to broker a deal. Iran desperately needs sanction relief and the P5+1 should push further for clear formulations, which do not allow Iran to interpret the clauses of the deal.

IMG_1496Dr. Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, underlined the great strength of European foreign policy when the EU is capable of standing united as has been the case on the Iranian nuclear issue. However, the EU and the US should not be too confident about the outcome of the negotiations, which are currently going on in Vienna. Dr. Gerecht draw attention to the differing positions of the US and Europe towards certain means of coercion, such as targeted and limited military strikes. In his view, the negotiating partners are not willing to put forward a credible threat of force against Iran, but at the same time the current sanctions regime might not be enough to force Iran to a deal.

Jan Techau, Director of Carnegie Europe, rightly pointed out that the question might be if the West trusts each other instead of if the West can trust Iran. Division in the ranks of the P5+1 and differing negotiating positions pose a serious threat to the outcome of the talks. If the West wants to succeed in striking a deal with Iran, it must stand united.

For further information on the Conference held in cooperation with the Transatlantic Institute in the Résidence Palace on 18 February, read the ISIS article here.

Julie Cantalou


[1] The term refers to the P5 or five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany. By European countries the P5+1 is often referred to as the EU3+3.