AUDIO, TRANSCRIPT: Kahl, Walsh on Iran Negotiations – Getting to Yes at Moscow and Beyond

Home / / AUDIO, TRANSCRIPT: Kahl, Walsh on Iran Negotiations – Getting to Yes at Moscow and Beyond

AUDIO, TRANSCRIPT: Kahl, Walsh on Iran Negotiations – Getting to Yes at Moscow and Beyond

On a press call hosted by the National Security Network today, Dr. Colin Kahl,  and Dr. Jim Walsh outlined a path for “taking ‘yes’ for an answer” with Iran, a path that leads through negotiations in Moscow next week, but does not end there.

LISTEN to the call HERE

READ the transcript HERE

Call Highlights:

On Moscow talks as a ‘make or break’ meeting. COLIN KAHL, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East: “No matter what the outcome of Moscow is, this isn’t a make or break meeting for diplomacy. If you have an agreement, it’s not going to be the final agreement, so diplomacy is going to have to continue. If you have no agreement, it won’t be evidence that… diplomacy has been exhausted, because Iran is not on the cusp of getting a nuclear weapon, so there’s still months and months and months for the diplomatic process to regain some momentum and move towards a deal.”

On the Catch-22 of sanctions. JIM WALSH, International security expert and research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program:  “Some people in Congress are saying we should never take off the sanctions, even if we get a nuclear deal. And it seems to me that that’s a recipe for another war in the Middle East. We put on sanctions to get nuclear change, so how can we expect Iran to change if they don’t have any expectation that the sanctions should be removed? Why should they change their behavior if regardless of what they do, they’ll be sanctioned anyway? I think that’s a real issue moving forward: sanctions easy to place, hard to get rid of. …If you never spend that leverage in order to achieve your policy objective, then it’s been all for naught.”

On John Bolton, moderates’ ‘diplomatic redlines’ and the future shape of US-Iran policy. KAHL: “If [John Bolton’s] views don’t reflect Gov. Romney’s, certainly Romney has taken no steps to distance himself from John Bolton and quite on the contrary, on a number of occasions, has been quite complimentary. Bolton’s view is pretty extreme –that diplomacy has already failed, that sanctions have already failed, and that we should basically go to war with Iran as soon as we can get the planes up in the air. I think most of the Romney advisors probably aren’t that bellicose, at least they haven’t said so, but in a strange way, they could end us up in the same place. You have a number of folks who advise the Romney campaign who’ve written op-eds or done press engagements recently who’ve taken a very hard line on the issue of Iranian enrichment, for example. So by insisting, as many in Congress do and as the Israelis have, that whatever the final deal is – we’re not talking about Moscow, but the final deal a year from now, or however long it takes from now —  that the final deal must ensure that Iranians cannot engage in any domestic enrichment at any level at all, ever, no matter how stringent the inspections regime, no matter how limited the scale of the Iranian program, no matter how limited the level of enrichment. By insisting on zero enrichment forever, they’re probably drawing a diplomatic redline in the sign that produces almost zero prospect for a deal. So while giving lip service to wanting a deal, they’re kind of setting a set of conditions that basically makes a deal impossible. Which either means war with Iran or a nuclear Iran becomes more likely. So there’s a lot of flash and bang to John Bolton, which is why he gets attention and to the degree that his words matter to the candidate, that’s troubling; but I find in some ways equally troubling some of the diplomatic redlines that are coming out from apparently more moderate voices that are advising the candidate.”

On the challenges of Iran negotiations. WALSH: “Negotiations take time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a labor or a trade negotiation. The Dayton accords [to establish peace in Bosnia] took 21 straight days of negotiation and we’re meeting for the third time in three months roughly. So they take time and they’re not easy. If the issues were easy, they’d already be solved by now.”

WALSH: “What happens because of the history of U.S. and Iran is there’s so much mistrust, such a bad history between the two, that when one comes out and offers something paltry, the other side immediately defaults to its set of expectations that ‘oh, you’re trying to trick me; you’re not serious about this.’ And so what is normal negotiation tactics often reinforces the worst expectations. So there’s a lot of history to overcome, and the issues themselves are tough but all the sides are motivated.

On the impact of Israel. WALSH: “I don’t think the Iranians are nearly as fearful about an Israeli military strike as are the Americans and the Europeans.”


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