Français   |  

Subscribe to the whole site

Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2013 > December > Iran: A Lesson in Diplomacy


Iran: A Lesson in Diplomacy

Sunday 1 December 2013, by Bradley Castelli

It’s being hailed as a historic agreement by some and a historic mistake by others. Whatever hindsight may reveal, for now, Iran and a handful of world powers have come to an agreement to limit the country’s nuclear program for six months while negotiators work toward something more sustainable.

Those applauding the agreement are claiming that the international community is more secure now, but from which point of view? Iran is not giving up a nuclear arsenal; it is choosing to be more transparent with regard to its nuclear program. The progression toward security lies in the fact that through negotiation, the US must now abandon its discourse that asserts Iran’s nuclear potential as a justification for invasion. The rapprochement between the US and Iran can serve to enhance regional stability in the Middle East, and can be used as a shining example of the power of diplomacy within an international context.

However, the agreement between Iran and the five permanent Security Council members (plus Germany) implies regional security more so than it actually guarantees it. Diplomatic ties between the US and Iran can be used to encourage a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria, but can also be a catalyst to Israel taking matters into its own hands, militarily. Fittingly, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is the one calling the agreement a historic mistake, though it remains uncertain who the wolf in sheep’s clothing actually is.

From a realist perspective, it makes sense that Israel be up in arms over the agreement since it possesses an unverified nuclear stockpile. If world powers can achieve success with Iran through diplomacy, surely they can talk Israel into a certain level of transparency. Until then, Israel remains the greatest threat to regional security in the Middle East with its weapons of mass destruction. Finding resolution in what seemed like an intractable situation with Iran sets a standard for transparency in the international community, and it is going to be hard to justify continuing to turn a blind eye to Israel.

Again, the agreement with Iran reflects the fact that military force should be kept as a genuine last resort in international relations. It’s only been a few months since the US and a handful of its allies were on the verge of plunging into yet another armed intervention in the Middle East after a chemical attack took place in Syria. Had Russia not intervened diplomatically, offering an alternative to intervention, any sort of subsequent diplomacy with Iran would be highly unlikely, and an unchecked nuclear program may have justified an attack on the part of Israel. Violence begets violence, after all.

Despite its dissatisfaction with the agreement involving Iran, Israel would find little international support if it now decides to take matters into its own hands. So while regional security still isn’t guaranteed, a framework for a more sustainable security has been established. It seems as though certain states have benefitted from Iran and the US being cold adversaries, and rapprochement between them has ruffled some feathers around the world. This is partly the reason why the agreement can be considered historic and why US president Obama may have established a foundation on which to build a legacy.

The scope of the agreement with Iran remains to be seen, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. One thing that is certain is that a collective peace must be prioritized over individual alliances.