14 Jul 2015

Today’s Iran deal is a triumph for international diplomacy

As we drove to the Austria Centre where today’s Iran deal will be announced, the Iranian journalists on the bus were singing a song from a puppet show they used to watch on TV as kids.


Some were exiles, reporting for western media, while others work for Iranian outlets. All were thrilled that finally, after 12 years of fractious negotiations, the US and Iran have come to an accommodation.

Officially this is a deal between Iran on the one side and the UN Security Council countries plus Germany on the other. The main point is that Iran has agreed to curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

But everyone knows that the real cause for celebration is that long-time enemies Iran and the US have opened up new era of, if not friendship, at least cooperation.

Value of diplomacy

So maybe this is a moment to think about the value of diplomacy. The famous phrase from the Prussian military strategist Carl Von Clausewitz is “war is the continuation of diplomacy with other means”. But on this occasion diplomacy alone has worked.

“The real achievement may be that a major international conflict – a conflict that has brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war in recent years – has been resolved through a compromise achieved by diplomacy,” writes Trita Parsi of National Iranian American Council.

“This is perhaps the most astonishing characteristic of the ongoing diplomacy. Neither side is negotiating the terms of its defeat or capitulation.”

Regime change, not compromise

There will be many who oppose the deal, not least the Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu and many US Republicans. They believe in regime change, not compromise – they want to force the Islamic Republic to collapse. But that’s not going to happen. They
have presented no reasonable alternative to a today’s diplomatic accord.

Gulf countries are also suspicious of a deal that they think will embolden Iran to meddle in the Arab world, further arming and supporting Shia groups such as Hezbollah and the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. This is a much more reasonable objection, one which the Americans must address.

Stopping the spread of Isis

Iran does have an aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East that needs to be balanced with the influence of Gulf countries. But, having said that, Iran is implacably opposed to al-Qaeda and Islamic State. This deal opens the path for cooperation to stop the spread of IS, which most western governments see as the greatest threat for decades.

The British government has increased the budget of the Department for International Development and pledged to maintain Ministry of Defence spending to the Nato standard of 2 per centĀ of GDP. Meanwhile, the Foreign Office budget has been cut.

Far be it from me to champion any department of the British government over another, but after the disasters of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, today is a day to celebrate a triumph for international diplomacy.

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10 reader comments

  1. Saj says:

    Personally I am delighted that this Iran nuclear deal has been agreed whilst I still question its necessity. I am so tired of 1st world arrogance that they alone will control intellectual property & decide who deserves what. Yes the issue of nuclear proliferation is a concern but I have yet to hear of any Iranian source saying they were pursuing weapons capability.
    Yet we are all told this is their ambition without any evidence, Iran hasn’t started any wars in the region & I refuse to accept they desire to attack Israel either conventionally or with nuclear weapons. I am sick of the assumed moral gravity that the 1st world adopts as though they alone will decide impartially for the greater good.
    Since when has 1st world involvement in the ME & Africa achieved long term stability? Historically from slavery via colonialism to post WW2 ‘diplomacy’ the 1st world has pursued its own agenda to the detriment of people’s in the region. The disastrous post invasion planning following the Iraq war created IS whilst allowing Syria to implode has allowed IS to flourish. My point is simply on what tangible grounds can the 1st world deny any country peaceful nuclear energy?
    There are some commentators whom I respect who claim as Iran has reserves of fossil fuel it doesn’t need nuclear power, but why shouldn’t it have both? There are some states who decry this achievement but they like some people will ignore the evidence to promote a narrative which supports their prejudices.
    I applaud President Obama for continuing the dialogue compare his actions to Bush who called Iran a member of the axis of evil.
    Some will disagree but I prefer to look at the positive rather than the naysayers.

  2. Andrew Dundas says:

    Has Obama earned – at last – his Nobel Peace prize? What with the Cuban opening and the Pacific trade deal, he’s piling up a substantial foreign policy legacy.
    We all stand in the shelter of peaceful US diplomacy for a change. And what a change it is!

  3. Philip says:

    Phew! perhaps we could continue this novel idea of talking to other countries who have different perspectives & requirements, rather than bombing them or shunning them.

  4. anon says:

    this is a stunning diplomatic triumph for President Obama and his team, and all those involved,

    jaw -jaw, not war-war sort of thing

    there are enough people who need to be fought, starting with IS, without adding any more.

    I am sure this will work

    God Bless

  5. Khosrow says:

    If hopefully this is the beginning of a new chapter in the diplomatic relations between Iran and the West, including Britain, I do hope this time the British politicians, especially the Prime Minster, Mr Cameron, would not blow it up by some self-serving speeches calling Iran a ‘terrorist’ state, or ‘supporter of terrorism’ simply because Iran still condemns Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian lands.

    The British policy in the Middle East, be it its complicity in Bahrain’s and UAE’s human rights abuses and suppression of pro-democracy activists, or its support for the Saudi’ military attacks on Yemen or for Israel’s illegal occupation and military attacks on the civilians as in Gaza and Lebanon has not created a popular image for Britain in the Muslim world, especially defending Israel’s apartheid regime while calling Hamas and Hezbollah a ‘terrorist’ organization’ despite them representing masses of Palestinians and Shia in their respective regions.

    Britain needs to realise that the aggressive colonial political language is dead; that instead of bullying Britain needs to consider that polite language and ‘mutual respect’ are integral parts of Iranian culture and should play an important role in foreign policy – by ‘mutual’ it means that Iranians are not Britain’ colonial subjects or a backward country to be lectured at: Iran is a vibrant young and highly educated people and are as intelligent as their counterparts could ever be. But regrettably the British media and politicians often fail to register this and give in to an insulting demonetization not just of Iranian politicians but of ordinary Iranians, often noted in the British tabloid press, e.g. Daily Mail. I do hope soon there will be a restoration of lasting relations between Iran and Britain based on friendship and ‘mutual’ respect.

    1. Philip says:

      Well said. This needs to be repeated to every British politician & media outlet several times a day. (It would also serve for dealings with Muslims in general)

  6. Alan says:

    The article implies that Iran has been bought under control, even though the JCPA cedes more than it gains. The emphasis upon US involvement is at best obscuring given US administrative blocking over unsubstantiated claims, i.e. Iran is creating nuclear weaponry. If one reads the JCPA one is left wondering which agreement the article is referring to?

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      What ‘unsubstantiated claims’ do you mean?
      Do you mean the several thousands of centrifuges, or the massive stocks of highly enriched uranium that Iran was accumulating and has now agreed to disperse before the year end?
      Why did iran want to make so much highly enriched uranium anyway? That level of enrichment and the thousands of high speed centrifuges are not needed for any peaceful use.
      Only the making of weapons grade uranium would need such quantities and such highly enriched uranium. Could it be that Iran might have had some other use for it?
      That’s all in the past now. Let’s all just gloss over that past uranium enrichment, and allow Iran to comply fully with the non-proliferation treaty it has signed and under the watchful eyes of the IAEA.

    2. bendetto.com says:

      “Iran has been *bought* under control” – nice slip, I dare say.

  7. syed sarfaraz ali says:

    I heard the deal between Iran and the US has been agreed upon. The details of the deal are not yet made public. The deal is always based upon give & take policy. Therefore terming it as the triumph of a single party is not correct. frankly speaking, we cannot call it a diplomatic win either. Because this diplomacy has cost the world more than a decade of time including six nations intervention, UNO’s pressure, huge expenses in terms of several round of failed talks. Economic sanctions, losses of trade relations, loss of mutual trust were the end result of this period. Now at long last, they have reached a mutual programme which does not seem to be reliable and permanent.

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