The Fate of Iran’s Nuclear Issue in 2011
Best Optimistic to Worst Case Scenarios
Ali Asghar Kazemi
December 31, 2010
I don’t pretend to be a futurist, but, based on realistic assessment of the past events, one can have a good hunch of eventual trends and expectations of the future. The year 2010 crossed in a way the threshold of peaceful diplomatic interaction that the West could afford to deal with the overall issue of Iran. A portion of those efforts is scheduled for the beginning of the New Year 2011 as to indicate perhaps the final call for compromise. Depending on the position of Iranian decision-makers, one of the following scenarios may take place on which basis the West’s eventual plan for action will be formulated:
- Given its internal problems, particularly in the field of domestic economy which is seriously affected by UN sanctions and those inflicted by the West and its allies, Iran will take an unprecedented bold step to go along with the UN Security Council demand in agreeing to suspend(at least temporarily) its nuclear enrichment activities for the sake of confidence-building;
- Iran will try to put forward a third solution through initiating an international consortium with the participation of the West and third parties acceptable to it, for handling and supervising the enrichment business as a mean of confidence-building;
- Iran will continue its evasive tactics through vague and non-relevant statements without squarely and frankly repudiating negotiations for eventual compromise on the nuclear issue;
- Iran will categorically reject all demands and appeals for halting its nuclear activities and warn the West and its allies against intervening in its internal affairs and threaten to use forces directly or by its proxies in case of opening hostilities in the region and the Persian Gulf.
Among the above alternatives, we start from the best optimistic to the worst case scenarios. Indeed the first scenario is most ideal for the West and international community as a whole as well as for Iran; which actually needs a favorable domestic and international environment for safe and secure implementation of its newly initiated economic reform plan. This alternative, if accepted, will give Iran a break to handle its domestic affairs which is quite susceptible to threaten the very survival of the Islamic regime. The West can promote this option by offering Iran an acceptable incentive package which would be hard to reject.
Though the first scenario is quite appealing and could eventually benefit all parties involved, alternatives two and three may be considered as suitable complementary for Iran; in the sense that both fit in the same category of negotiating fashion of Iranian diplomats. However, alternative two has been already tested and has set a bad precedent for Iran’s good intention in the last round of negotiations in Geneva two years ago. It is not sure that the 5+1 powers will be ready to go along with scenario two, given their previous experience with similar scheme which was aborted by Iran.
The most probable alternative would be the third one which by experience seems to satisfy Iran’s vagueness and ambivalent positions so far. In such case, the 5+1 powers will be tempted to go for a fifth draft resolution to be adopted by the Security Council. Such resolution will surely attempt to tighten the rope around Iran’s neck by adopting harsher sanctions to the extent allowed by Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
Iran’s response to this last UN action will determine whether the threshold of tolerance would be crossed paving the path for activating Article 42 of the UN Charter, which calls for military operations against the defying party to a dispute.
With regards to the fourth alternative, despite hostile rhetoric of Iran’s hard-line conservatives against the West, the worst case scenario appears a far remote option; since the overall nation seems not prepared to engage in another war and active hostilities in the near future. This means that the West should not really take much serious hostile messages coming out of Iran; they are in most part for domestic consumptions.
The overall assessment is that the year 2011 will be decisive for Iran and its relations with the West. So far the West has been able to reach a quasi conclusive consensus on Iran’s nuclear activities, separating Russia and China from the Islamic government. This has already put a heavy burden on Iran’s diplomacy, which invested so much to keep these two powers in its side.
The Islamic Republic will have a hard time and a very busy year ahead in struggling concurrently in two fronts (domestic and foreign) to keep the ship of the state afloat. High politics decision-makers should make a realistic assessment of the present situation and formulate the strategy that best insures Iran’s national interests while assuring the rest of the world of its good intentions with respect to the nuclear activities./
* Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and -International Relations in Tehran-Iran.
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