Prospects for progress on Iran’s nuclear file

The stand-off over Iran’s nuclear programme is fraught with danger, with Israel and U.S. presidential candidates urging tougher action. Military action poses an inherent risk to the global non-proliferation regime, in particular if it were unilateral action by Israel, a non-NPT state acting to punish a member-state for apparently transgressing it.

It would result in a renewal of Iran’s trajectory towards the nuclear threshold with greater unity of support within the country. Even today, the combination of covert action and sanctions has undermined dialogue, and has achieved little more than delay for Iran’s nuclear programme.

But the period ahead of the 2012 Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East conference also presents a window of opportunity to improve diplomatic relations, an opportunity to engage Iran and its neighbours in a regional dialogue. States will need to agree on organising principles ahead of the WMDFZ conference, with a view to building a concept of security better suited to all the key regional actors, such as:

• The pursuit of trust-building measures by Middle Eastern states, but also by the P5 + 1;
• Greater involvement of states in the region determining the diplomatic agenda; and,
• The re-integration of Iran into the international community through a robust nuclear verification and inspection regime.

The WMDFZ conference, valuable in itself, is the beginning of a wider political and diplomatic regional process, with implications beyond WMD. It offers the hope of reintegrating Iran, and of greater transparency and engagement on the part of all the actors involved.

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