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March 1, 2013

Experts Offer Follow-Up Analysis of Almaty Talks on Capitol Hill



Washington, DC – “My preliminary sense of what happened in Kazakhstan is [it is] a very very very small step in the right direction,” said Paolo Cotta Ramusino, Secretary General of Pugwash, at a briefing for Capitol Hill staff sponsored by NIAC yesterday. “They discussed this issue which is elimination of certain types of sanctions vis-à-vis the possibility that Iran will restraint itself more, this is a very good approach, you can get a resolution, possibly a resolution, of the controversy.” 

In the wake of talks between Iran and six world powers held in Kazakhstan earlier this week, experts from Pugwash and Harvard’s Belfer Center analyzed the negotiations and the next steps in the diplomatic process to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute.

Pugwash, an internationally renowned organization that brings together influential scholars and public figures to work toward reducing the danger of armed conflict and seek solution to global problems, has in the past brokered Track-II negotiations involving the U.S., Iran, and Israel. In 1995, the organization was rewarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts on nuclear disarmament.

Ramusino outlined what he said was the counterproductive nature of sanctions in blocking nuclear activities. He explained that the continued ratcheting up of sanctions on Iran has not deterred its nuclear program, but instead has served to worsen the climate for negotiations and may ultimately lead to a scenario where the only viable option left becomes the military one. “Fastening the speed of the sanctions is in fact accelerating the time where at some point the only thing left would be military action,” he said. “I think people should think carefully what the military action would imply.” 

Steve Miller of Harvard’s Belfer Center highlighted the innate suspicion that each side has had  about the seriousness of the bargaining and negotiating efforts of the other. He noted that both sides believe there is a “first movers disadvantage” which makes them reluctant of giving concessions they deem premature in the fear of losing any leverage they may have. “Diplomacy up until now has been confidence destroying rather than confidence building,” he said. 

Both Miller and Remusino stressed that any successful deal to satisfy concerns with Iran’s nuclear program would require a recognition of an Iranian right to peaceful enrichment coupled with sanctions relief. In return, Iran would have to agree to more intense constraints on its nuclear activities and come in full compliance with the IAEA.  “The solution to the controversy should be win-win,” Remusino said, “and the win that Iran can get is the recognition of its own right.” 

Remusino went on to make a series of recommendations to the U.S. Congress on how best to go proceed on the Iranian nuclear dispute. He stated that the foremost important matter was to not expand further the sanctions on Iran. “Don’t believe that putting more sanctions is going to solve the problem,” he said. “It is going to exacerbate the climate, it going to make life for the ordinary people in Iran worse, and it’s not going to detach the leadership from the people because the leadership has strong power to control the situation.” 




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