The first act of the Iran Nuclear Accord took eight years. The backdrop kept changing from Geneva to Vienna but the actors were nearly all the same. Except for the representative of the European Union it was an all male, middle-age cast with little comic relief, at least on stage. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to give the play its formal name was signed in 2015 with polite applause and some anticipation of what the next acts might hold.
The second act started with the election of Donald Trump as the US President. He was used to faster-paced TV shows and so left the theater, saying that there were no lines concerning Iranian missiles. The development of Iranian missiles is not a subject directly covered by the Iranian nuclear accord. However, there is the Hague Code of Conduct aganst Ballistic Missile Production (HCOC) which came into force on 25 November 2002 which calls for restraint in their production, testing, and export. The Hague Code could be strengthened although we have seen little leadership on the part of those States which have extensive missile programs.
One can understand the boredom of some. The action was very slow. The Iranians kept to the script, and IAEA atomic inspectors came periodically from Vienna but were largely nameless. The Iranian economy did not improve dramatically and so some Iranian “hardliners” started wondering who had written the play. But as the Second Act continued, the drama started heating up. Off stage, one could hear war drums starting to beat. Armed conflicts continued in Syria and Yemen. One could hear the sounds of weapons off stage but rather close. Tankers with oil were menaced. Regional States not part of the Nuclear Accord such as Saudia Arabia and Israel were watching closely and even throwing some oil on the fire. As the Second Act ended, there was serious discussion of the possibility of a regional war.
Now the Third Act has started with two signs of hope that the drama will have a “happy end” or at least as “happy” as current world politics will allow. However, both signs of hope may require that we in the non-governmental world, stop being just spectators of the drama and ask to become actors as well and add lines to the script promoting negotiations in good faith.
The first sign of hope comes from Moscow. On 23 July 2019, the Russian Government’s “Collective Security for the Persian Gulf Region” was presented in Moscow by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Mikhail Bogdanov. Bagdanov stated that “ The main principles are incrementalism, multilateralism, and strict observation of international law, primarily the U.N. Charter and Security Council resolution. The looming strategic challenge outlined is creating among all states in the region on an equal basis” a collective security institution.
The Russian proposal for Collective Security for the Persian Gulf follows closely the procedures which led to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and the creation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Bogdanov stressed multilateralism as a mechanism for all involved in the assessment of situations, the decision-making process, and the implementation of decisions.
The second sign of hope comes from the decision within the G7 meeting which ended on 26 August 2019 to mandate the President of France to see what negotiations were possible to continue the Iran Nuclear Accord. This G7 agreement opens a door, at leat a bit, to renewed negotiations between the U.S.A. and Iran. The first step may be to stop beating the war drums off stage. A second step will be to see what issues other than the Nuclear Accord can be discussed as the provisions of the Nuclear Accord are not really open to re-negotiation given the time it took to reach the original agrrement and the States involved.
Thus, it is probably around the Russian proposal of a Helsinki-type regional security conference that non-governmental organizations, such as the Association of World Citizens, can play an active role. NGOs were active during the nearly three years that the Helsinki Accord was being negotiated. After a short start in Helsinki, the negotiations moved to Geneva. Although NGO representatives had no direct avenue into the discussions, all the key States in the negotiations had Diplomatic Missions to the U.N. in Geneva. We often knew diplomats at these Missions from our work in U.N. meetings, so ideas could be passed on to the Helsinki Final Act negotiators. It is still too early to know how the Russian proposal will be acted upon. However, the Russian proposals are a positive sign. We need to work to see what issues can be negotiated. The Third Act is not written in advance.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens