CIPS Policy Brief No. 5, June 2009

  • The election of Barak Obama greatly increases the chances of a comprehensive Iran-US dialogue, but it remains uncertain if such a dialogue will actually begin.
  • If talks start, outside actors will need to understand the distinctive characteristics of Iranian negotiating behaviour, which reflect complex social and historical approaches to interpersonal relationships in Iranian society.
  • The worst case scenario of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons would be a serious development, but a nuclear-armed Iran is not imminent and could be deterred.
  • There may be some scope for discussions about “limits” on Iran’s fuel cycle activities, but such approaches must avoid creating the impression that Iran is “caving in” to the West or they will be rejected by Iranian political and religious leaders.

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Peter Jones is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and was formerly an official in the Privy Council Office. Since 1995, he has made 14 trips to Iran, participating in a number of conferences as an academic, and discussing regional issues with the Iranian Government as a Canadian official. He has also run several Track Two dialogues which have included Iranian participants.