America's Failed Negotiations With a Nuclear Iran

Dr. Emily Landau — a professor at Tel Aviv University and a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies — discussed Iran’s nuclear capability and how that affects the rest of the world, at a talk held by The Common Good and MTP Investment Group.

Landau made clear that there is “no longer any doubt that Iran is moving towards military nuclear capability.” She discussed a secret file with information on Iran’s nuclear program that the International Atomic Energy Agency is known to have, but will not make public for fear that Iran would become even less helpful than it already is. The agency also does not want this file to become public for fear that Israel might make a militaristic move to stop Iran.

Iran has been enriching uranium to 20% since 2010. This percentage is far above the use of a civilian program and well on its way to the 90% needed for a nuclear weapon. After reaching the 20% benchmark, it is relatively easy to further enrich uranium to higher levels. Russia and France tried to negotiate a deal with Iran to help them enrich uranium for fuel rods, which are used in nuclear reactors, and that only a few countries are capable of doing. Iran said they did not trust Russia and France and instead decided to would enrich their own uranium.

Landau said negotiations with Iran have failed because Iran has absolutely no reason to negotiate. Both sides in a negotiation need to have an interest in the outcome for it to succeed. In reality, Landau believes that “Iran will negotiate seriously once they have nuclear capabilities.” At this time, they will have something worth negotiating over: power in the Middle East.

Landau discussed two main options she considers worthwhile to counter this threat. Massive pressure with sanctions is the first option. If Iran is hurting economically and politically, they might be willing to make a deal. Secondly, she believes that a credible threat of military action would produce results. In 2003, Iran thought that once the U.S. was finished in Iraq they would be next, but all they hear coming from the U.S. is that it would be a disaster to go into Iran. Landau thinks this rhetoric “undermines the U.S. ability to be a credible threat to Iran” and if they at least thought something might be done, they might be more willing to negotiate. China on the other hand is saying that Iran's having a nuclear weapon wouldn’t be a bad thing because the world can contain them.

“I fear Iran will be very rational and stir up a lot of trouble in the Middle East,” Landau said. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon there will be no real consequences for Iran at that point in time. This will show other countries that they too could build a nuclear weapon without fear of reprisal. Iran would garner much power and respect from countries all over and especially in the Middle East because of the fear associated with having a nuclear weapon.

Landau made one point clear: Iran is moving toward a militarization of their nuclear program and negotiations are not working to stop them. Without regime change, this will not end unless the U.S. steps up and changes how it handles the situation. Sanctions supported and enforced by all and a credible threat of military action from the U.S. are the only way she sees any progress being made.

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