Analysis & Opinions - Middle East Report Online

Learning from the Past in the Iranian Nuclear Dispute

| April 16, 2014

The controversy over the Iranian nuclear program is in many ways a product of the US-Iranian conflict. The United States and Iran are in the grip of mutual negative perceptions that, in turn, have been reinforced by the escalatory dynamics of the nuclear dispute. After years of seeming diplomatic deadlock, these dynamics suddenly changed for the better in the autumn of 2013. The positive trends culminated in November, when Iran agreed with the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany, the so-called P5+1, on a confidence-building deal known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPA). Given the record of diplomatic non-achievement, the deal is a historic development. The parties began to implement the JPA in January 2014; it is supposed to pave the way for far more ambitious next steps.

Although the de-escalation and the JPA are generally associated with the election of Hassan Rouhani as president of the Islamic Republic and the subsequent change in Iran's foreign policy orientation, these developments cannot be fully understood without taking into account the simultaneous changes on the Western side. Indeed, the summer of 2013 was a crucial period of introspection on both sides when fixed ideas and narratives began to give way to more flexible positions. The following discussion, based on interviews with negotiators and diplomats on both sides, shows that each side was reaching a critical point in a learning process around the time of Rouhani's victory....

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For Academic Citation: Erästö, Tytti.“Learning from the Past in the Iranian Nuclear Dispute.” Middle East Report Online, April 16, 2014.

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