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A New Approach to Iran?

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Gabrielle Rifkind
1 June 2011

A New Approach to Iran?

We need a new approach to negotiating with Iran on nuclear issues and other concerns. That's the conclusion of a new paper Talking to the Enemy: Creating New Structures for Negotiations, by Gabrielle Rifkind, our Middle East Director.

"30 years of estrangement" have led to "30 years of futility" in the relationship between Iran and the United States. The absence of diplomatic relations, with neither the U.S. nor Iran having embassies on each other's soil, has exacerbated the sense of mistrust and inability to find any consensus on both sides. Profound disagreement on the issues and underlying hostility has further soured an already estranged relationship.

"The quality of communication is now shaped by misconceptions, stereotypes, and demonisation. The worst fears and preconceptions shape the narrative between the two states. Currently, there is no political motivation to discuss a new international approach toward Iran. With all eyes are on the Arab world, now could be just the right moment to approach Iran anew," says Gabrielle Rifkind.

To break the current paralysis a number of options for engaging with the Iranians could be pursued. The new steps could include a: 

  • Continuous process for the negotiations which are currently piecemeal and fragmented 
  • Regional table engaging neighbouring countries in a comprehensive peace process for Afghanistan which would include Iran in an non adversarial  problem-solving role.

Gabrielle Rifkind also suggests the setting up of a small group of very experienced diplomats to sit together outside the official negotiating process. She  says: 
"The purpose would be to create a less formal environment where relationships of trust could be built and new openings could be explored."

Read the full ground-breaking paper, Talking to the Enemy: Creating New Structures for Negotiations, given by Gabrielle Rifkind at the Canadian International Council in Ottawa on 5 May. A summary of the paper can be found here.

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