Jeffrey LewisIran Roundup: Negotiations and Wonkporn

An anonymous EU official told AFX the European Union will present a new proposal to Iran during the week following Mahmood Ahmadinejad’s 3 August 2005 inauguration as Iranian President.

No details were available, though the Iranians have been demanding some relief from the voluntary suspension of enrichment activities—specifically uranium conversion efforts.


Just to totally wonk-out on you…

Iranian Head of Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani gave an interview to the conservative Iranian daily Keyhan—which I gather has been pretty tough on Rowhani and other moderates.

Rowhani spilled the bureaucratic beans about Iran’s nuclear decision-making process.

This is total wonkporn:

(Mohammadi) … There are two issues on which we would like to know what your opinion was at the beginning of the process. One is about the negotiating team as the forces in the field of the nuclear case, and the other is about the decision-making process, which means the stages that had to be passed for a decision to be made with regard to the nuclear case.

(Rowhani) Look, before I was appointed, there were certain guidelines for these issues. There was a committee on the nuclear case that could be called the “Council of Heads” which was held from an earlier stage and I too was a member of it. And then there was another committee that could be called the “Policymaking Committee” which was on a secondary level. We had this committee, too.

(Mohammadi) Who were the members?

(Rowhani) It was a committee on the level of ministers and some other personalities were present, too. For example, Dr Larijani, Dr Velayati, the intelligence minister and the director of the Atomic Energy Organization were and still are its members. On the third level, there was also an expert committee consisting of experts of different institutions involved with the issue.

(Mohammadi) Which institution was in charge of these sessions?

(Rowhani) The Foreign Ministry, and those who carried out the negotiations were chiefly from the Foreign Ministry, too. I mean this team existed before I took charge of the case. In the month of June and especially in September, this team went to the agency and was active there.

(Mohammadi) Was that team’s composition the same as the present one?

(Rowhani) Yes, it was the same team. Of course, there may have been some minor changes in it, but the present team was there. In fact, I made no changes since I was appointed. The Council of Heads is clear, and I wasn’t supposed to change the committee of ministers. In fact, I was supposed to work with the existing conditions and facilities. For example, about the negotiating team, I neither removed nor added any person. The same members stayed in the team and still are there.

(Mohammadi) How were the decisions adopted?

(Rowhani) Important or strategic decisions were made in the Council of Heads.

(Mohammadi) What kinds of decisions were considered “important” and “strategic.”

(Rowhani) Well, I should use examples. For example, deciding whether we should have talks with Europe or not; or the decision as to whether we should have extensive cooperation with the agency or not. These decisions were made in the Council of Heads. Or, for example, the decision that the nuclear fuel cycle was our red line and under no circumstances would we waive it was also among these decisions. In fact, all of the important and strategic principles and decisions that were the foundation of our work were ratified in the Council of Heads. The decisions that were made on the second level, which means in the committee of ministers, were also reported to the leader and the president before being executed. In the third-level committee, which means the expert sessions, details were further discussed and I led the sessions myself.

(Mohammadi) In what order were these decisions made, from top to bottom or from bottom to top?

(Rowhani) It varies from one case to the other. For example, the decision that our cooperation with the agency should be full cooperation was a bottom-to-top decision. But the decision that the nuclear fuel cycle must be considered as our red line was discussed and made both in the expert sessions and in the Council of Heads. Of course, in most cases, the decisions were made from bottom to top, which means that the principles of the topics discussed in the sessions of experts or ministers would later be considered and ratified in the Council of Heads.

The article has a lot more detail, including backstory on the length of suspension. Here is the full text.

The most interesting revelation—for me—was confirmation of the role that Iran-EU negotiations played in reconfiguring the bureaucratic constellation that makes Iran’s nuclear decisions.

Chayes and Chayes—writing in The New Sovereignty: Compliance with International Regulating Agreements (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995)—argue the process of negotiating an international agreement, including the ensuing domestic debates that result in negotiating positions, create an internal consensus that can be reinforced by the national and international bureacratic structures created under the agreement.

In the case of Iran, Sharam Chubin argued negotiations would force an internal Iranian debate that would allow the pragmatists an opportunity to shape a program run at that time by a small group of hardliners.

Rowhani suggests that happened, telling Keyhan that pressure from the IAEA Board of Governors, beginning in June 2003, eventually:

… caused the nuclear case to acquire national security aspects, and so the organizations that were naturally pursuing the issue up to that time, which means the Foreign Ministry and the Atomic Energy Organization, referred the matter to the Supreme National Security Council.


… [I]t was suggested that all issues involving the nuclear case be placed under one person’s authority and that person’s orders be mandatory for all organizations related to the case. There were discussions as to who that person should be. Eventually, the system’s high-ranking officials in one of their meetings decided that I should undertake this responsibility.

If Iran’s new President proves more moderate on these issues than we expect—a big if right now—we may someday credit former President Khatami for beginning a process of negotiations that constrained his more hardline successor.

See why conservatives hate bureaucrats?

Paul Adds:

I wrote a while back that Rowhani and other Iranian officials have argued that the EU3 negotiations have indeed had an effect.

A relevant excerpt:

For example, Sirus Naseri, head Iranian delegate to the talks, made the case for Iran’s continued participation in the negotiations during a March appearance on Iranian television. Asked whether there are conditions under which Tehran will end the negotiations, Naseri argued that establishing such a “red-line” is “neither rational nor in the interests of the country.…If we give up [the talks], the country will sustain long-term fundamental damage.”

Rowhani defended Iran’s participation in the talks on similar grounds during a February appearance before university students. Observing that Iran’s “economic ties are linked to our political relations and international regulations,” Rowhani argued that Iran’s international economic relations are linked to the resolution of concerns regarding its nuclear program.

He also explained that Tehran’s decision to cooperate with the IAEA and the Europeans was necessary in order to disprove “American claims” that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran’s cooperation “can be an important factor in preventing America’s likely actions against Iran,” he added.

Additionally, Rowhani suggested that Iran’s cooperation is an effort to avoid an IAEA referral. “Right from the beginning, our aim was to prevent Iran’s [IAEA] dossier being [sic] referred” to the Security Council, he said, adding that Tehran cannot count on countries such as Russia and China to veto any council measures to penalize Iran.