Following Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s meeting last week with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the other P5+1 foreign ministers, Flynt went on the PBS Newshour to discuss the prospects for U.S-Iranian nuclear diplomacy, see here or (if you prefer You Tube) here. The next concrete step in U.S.-Iranian engagement on the nuclear issue will come next month, when Iran and the P5+1 resume discussions in Geneva.
In the wake of President Rohani’s visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, much of the American commentariat (including one of Flynt’s co-panelists on the Newshour) is asking how much the Islamic Republic will be prepared to concede—or, more bluntly, surrender—in nuclear talks. But, as we have noted before, this is mistaken and self-deluding view.
As Flynt points out on the Newshour, the core idea animating President Rohani’s approach to nuclear diplomacy—recognition of Iran’s nuclear rights, as a sovereign state and as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (including the right to enrich uranium under international safeguards) in exchange for greater transparency surrounding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities—is not new. It has, in fact, been on the table from the Iranian side for years; Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei publicly endorsed it well be Rohani was elected.
Rohani and Zarif are perhaps prepared to be more proactive in defining what greater transparency on Iran’s nuclear activities would mean, in practical terms. But, as they themselves have made abundantly clear, they are not there to surrender Iran’s nuclear rights.
Thus, the real question is: Is the Obama administration prepared to do a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic predicated on a recognition of Iran’s right to safeguarded enrichment—and to face down opposition to such a deal
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett