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An Epochal Peace

The new agreement with Iran over its nuclear program hews closely to R.K. Ramazani's recommendation in the afterword of his 2013 book Independence Without Freedom: Iran's Foreign Policy. According to the new deal, Iran will be able to maintain its program but for peaceful uses only. Ramazani, widely considered the dean of Iranian foreign policy study, urged the U.S. to recognize Iran's own ambivalence about nuclear weapons while allowing some freedom in civilian uses of a nuclear program.

He writes: "I hope that the foregoing analysis will aid a better American understanding not only of the fundamental driving forces and instruments of Iran’s foreign policy in general but also of Iran’s nuclear policy in particular. The United States claims that Iran intends to make nuclear bombs, while Iran insists that it opposes making and stockpiling nuclear weapons because it is 'sinful' (haram) in Islam and that it has “the right to enrich uranium” for peaceful purposes as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"In approaching Iran’s real nuclear intention, I situate it in the wider context of Iran’s diplomatic culture, which reveals that since the Iranian Revolution the opposition of the West in general and the United States in particular to Iran’s nuclear development has created in the psyche of the Iranian people a need to defend their nation’s 'inalienable right' (haq-e Mosallam) to enrich uranium for civilian uses, such as electricity.  This sense strikes deep roots in the Iranian ancient loyalty to national identity, the goal of political independence, and the quest for regional primacy, not dominance.

"I believe that had the P5+1 nations—the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and German—understood Iran’s nuclear intention in these terms, no such unrealistic goal of halting Iran’s enrichment would have been set.  Short of stopping enrichment, Iran would be prepared to accept limits on its enrichment level, perhaps even to the extent of forgoing breakout capability. It all depends, of course, on what Iran will get in return.  To set the limits is the key challenge that Iran and its negotiating partners face today, and the failure to meet it through patient and persistent diplomacy could result in a catastrophic regional war with far-reaching consequences for the global economy and international politics."

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