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Make the Deal: Do Not Wait for A Non-Existent Perfect Deal

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hamid Zangeneh
Professor of Economics, Widener University

We have a few days left to the final day (Nov. 24 target date) of this round of negotiations between Iran and 5+1 countries. There are some contradictory messages from both sides, some of which are unsettling. It seems that both sides are trying to get the last ounces of advantage from the other side, which is unfortunate. Both sides have been treating these negotiations as if they were zero-sum games, they are not. 

I believe both sides must agree on a good deal, which cannot be perfect under any circumstance, short of war, for either Iran or 5+1. One thing that Iranians need to learn from all these years of economic and political hardship is that being in the right does not mean sacrificing everything. 

What should a good deal look like?

Iran, it must receive explicit recognition of its rights to have a viable nuclear program similar to what Germany, Japan, and many other countries have. That is, the country must be able to choose what industries to have and where to invest or, as it is argued by its opponents, waste its resources. Their nuclear program should be a nucleus for development of an industrial base for Iran, in Iran and, with Iranian personnel. The agreement must not include exports of its enriched materials to Russia for either safe keeping or for their transformation into fuel rods. This industry must not make Iran a supplier of raw material to Russia or any other country to produce high end valuable energy materials that Iran would have to buy back. 

Even though I am a “free trader” and do not believe in self- sufficiency and isolation, Iran must be self-sufficient and self-reliant in this particular case. This is especially necessary in this case because Russia has been proven to be unreliable and highly malleable in favor of 5+1 and against Iran in many instances. This current case and the Bushehr project are the best examples of Russian unreliability and untrustworthiness. Bushehr project’s completion date has been postponed and cost overruns have been beyond acceptable standards. In the current case, Russia, looking for its own national self-interest, has been selling Iran to best bidder many times, which is an acceptable norm of conduct for Russia but it is not someone that you put your future in its hands. 

On the other side, the world needs to have reasonably robust assurances that Iran is not interested and will not resort to making nuclear bombs. This means that Iran must give the world intrusive access to its nuclear programs as much as every other country with a nuclear program.

Of course, a “complete and immediate” removal of sanctions and acceptance of Iran in the World Trade Organization must be a given in this process. A piecemeal process can fall apart for many unforeseen reasons; none of them should be attractive and enticing in a good faith permanent agreement. 

I believe a stable Iran is much more to the US and Europe’s national interest than an Iran in political disarray, which would emerge if we do not accept a good deal; a good deal that Rouhani could sell to the “right-wing” of the Islamic Republic of Iran who is anxiously waiting and praying for a failure of negotiations. 

An Iran in political turmoil would be an extremist and uncooperative regime, which would not serve our national self-interest. On the other hand a self-assured Iran could take bold actions that would help the region’s political stability and progress. Both sides must agree on a good deal rather than trying to force a humiliating perfect deal that does not exist and cannot be achieved.  

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.