Trita Parsi, Bijan Khajehpour and Reza Marashi write: The historic interim agreement between the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran over its nuclear dispute is not just about enrichment, centrifuges and breakout capabilities. Ultimately, it will help determine who and what will define Iran’s foreign and domestic policies for decades to come. Will it be the security-oriented, confrontational and internally repressive orientation preferred by the Iranian hardliners? Or will the more cooperative, moderate and win-win approach favored by President Hassan Rouhani and the majority of the population take root and prevail?
In a new report published today (“Extending Hands and Unclenching Fists“) — which relies on in-depth interviews with senior Iranian political officials, intellectuals and members of business community — we show that the West can weaken the hardline Iranian narrative of confrontation and resistance and facilitate a comprehensive nuclear deal by collaborating with Iran on scientific projects that carry no proliferation risk.
For the U.S. and Europe, this means augmenting a successful nuclear deal through other areas of mutual interest can help usher in a more cooperative and less threatening Iran whose domestic political liberalization positively impacts the Middle East as a whole. In the past, we have seen Iran take important steps in this direction, but without reaching the desired results.
The 2013 presidential election unexpectedly catapulted centrist leaders into power that have sought an opening to the West on numerous occasions. Such efforts include the 2001 collaboration with the U.S. in Afghanistan, the 2003 Grand Bargain offer, and the 2005 offer to limit Iran’s enrichment program to 3,000 centrifuges (Iran currently has 19,000). These offers were all made prior to the West imposing crippling sanctions. By rejecting this outreach, Washington strengthened the hand of Iranian hardliners who believe the only way to compel the U.S. to deal with Iran is not by sending peace offers, but rather by resisting American power. [Continue reading…]