Article

Cold War Lessons Can Help Disarm Iran

Published

12th April 2012

Saturday’s talks in Istanbul between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are testimony to the power of diplomacy backed by the threat of force. Just as a creative diplomatic initiative is required to prevent a calamitous conflict, no one should doubt that Tehran is coming to the table reluctantly, and under extreme duress. Sanctions of unprecedented breadth and depth are raising the cost of Tehran’s defiance of the Security Council’s demands.

Barack Obama has brought the case for diplomacy into the open, speaking powerfully against a “rush to war”. At the same time, he has made clear the conditions in which war becomes inevitable. If Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, America will strike. This clarity about red lines and the consequences if they are breached has been sorely missing. What matters now is that negotiations are seized with purpose and imagination, and are not allowed to falter at the first sign of difficulty.

We know that Iran will be engaging with the world at a time of turbulence and change within the regime. In a striking sign that Ayatollah Khamenei and those around him are forgetting the lesson of the Shah (and, much later, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt), the supreme leader is asserting power as the main pillar of the state, while rival centres of influence are weakened. In the long term, this will make the regime more vulnerable to change from below. In the immediate future it may make Iran a more disciplined negotiating partner.

The so-called P5+1 group has one task before all others: make credible what fragile agreement exists among them to create a unity of purpose that leaves Iran without alternatives for support or security. To do so it must draw on the cold war model for negotiations between sworn enemies. This suggests there are five components essential to progress.

First, a long-term vision. The deal on the table for Iran needs to be clear. On the one hand Iran must show that its nuclear programme has no military dimension. This is challenging given its history of evasion. On the other hand, the international community must agree that an Iran in compliance with the non-proliferation treaty has a right to civilian nuclear power.

Second, a transparent verification regime that creates confidence in the management of Iran’s existing stocks of enriched uranium. The fate of the stocks of 20 per cent and 3-5 per cent enriched uranium is secondary to international confidence in Iran’s commitments. Without that confidence, there would be little assurance Iran would not restart enrichment secretly elsewhere.

Third, sanctions. Russia has said Iran should be rewarded step by step for good behaviour: as Tehran acts on international concerns, sanctions should be lifted. The danger is clear: as sanctions are lifted, Iran reverses its commitments and reverts to its proscribed activities. This is all the more reason why the deal on offer and its verification mechanisms have to be clear. Then how and when to lift sanctions becomes a transparent process, as in the case of Myanmar.

Fourth, the regional context. Iran sees enemies in its neighbourhood – increasingly so given the weakness of the Syrian regime. As long as this is so, it will show extreme caution, if not hostility. The international community needs to understand the regional dynamics. Meanwhile, the Gulf states must be willing to acknowledge Iran’s legitimate interests and stop blaming Tehran for what are often self-inflicted wounds (in Bahrain, for example).

Finally, given the antagonism between the US and Iran, there is no substitute for American leadership. The US faces special pressures in an election year, but it holds the trump card. Deep in the Iranian psyche is a love-hate relationship with America and its power. Mr Obama is correct in his continuing attempts to use this leverage. Clarity about US intentions and commitments are key to a strategic calculus in Tehran that makes a deal possible.

Demanding complete certainties in the strategic competition of states is folly. Two generations of statesmen have brought the world remarkable stability – and avoided nuclear war – by choosing strategic patience and security agreements over a quest for total domination. No one is served by the illusion that security can now be achieved any differently.

Overview

Strategic advantage in a volatile world

The Firm

Nader Mousavizadeh and David Claydon founded Macro Advisory Partners in 2013 to provide a global client base with a competitive advantage in a complex world. Driven by a belief in the value of independent, long-term strategic counsel, MAP's co-founders created a firm that delivers actionable macro strategies to decision-makers in business, finance and government.

A volatile and fragmenting global landscape requires an integrated understanding of the political and economic drivers of change. Drawing on MAP's unique network, the firm’s partners — including Mona Sutphen and John Sawers — create tailored and innovative macro solutions mapped to the specific exposures, risks and opportunities facing the firm’s clients.

MAP's London and New York-based team of partners, directors and associates is supported by a Global Advisory Board and a group of Senior Advisors drawn from leadership positions in the worlds of business, finance, politics, diplomacy and technology.

Partners
Global Advisory Board
  • Kofi Annan

    Chairman, The Kofi Annan Foundation
    Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997 to 2006), and now serves as Chairman of The Kofi Annan Foundation.
  • William Burns

    President, Carnegie Endowment
    Ambassador Burns is President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and was the 17th United States Deputy Secretary of State.
  • Mala Gaonkar

    Co-portfolio Manager, Lone Pine Capital
    Mala Gaonkar is Co-portfolio Manager at Lone Pine Capital, and a former consultant at the World Bank.
  • Vikram Mehta

    Chairman, Brookings India
    Vikram Mehta is Executive Chairman of Brookings India and former Chairman of the Shell Group of Companies in India.
  • David Miliband

    President, IRC
    David Miliband is President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, following a distinguished political career in the United Kingdom.
  • Vali Nasr

    Dean, SAIS
    Dr Vali Nasr is Dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.

Concept

Macro Advisory Partners provides corporate, investor and sovereign clients with the strategic insights to navigate the intersection of global markets, geopolitics and policy.

In a world defined by volatility and uncertainty — and an abundance of information, yet scarcity of insight — we identify the strategic implications for decision-makers tasked with maximising opportunity and minimising risk. The Archipelago World is characterised by fragmenting markets, populist politics, policy unpredictability, revolutionary technology, and weaponised arenas of finance, regulation and cyber.  The implications of this environment are dramatic and lasting. To help our clients anticipate and navigate these shifts in the macro landscape, we bring together deep on-the-ground analysis with long-term strategic judgement tailored to our clients' specific interests, exposures and concerns.

For today's global investor and business leader, macro is just as disruptive a factor as technology. Our advice — delivered by the firm's partners through trusted, personal, long-term and dynamic client engagements — is drawn from the policy expertise and connectivity of our global network, supported by advanced data analytics. The firm's Global Advisory Board and a team of Senior Advisors with backgrounds in diplomacy, macro intelligence, investment strategy, academia and industry, support our partners with the judgements that enable us to provide clients with relevant, actionable and investable macro solutions.

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A culture of partnership defines our firm — among the individuals we have attracted to our endeavour, and with the clients whose long-term interests we view as our own. Our team brings to our work a diverse range of global business, finance and government experiences that enable us not only to interpret a changing macro environment for our clients, but also to design specific solutions that enhance their performance and prospects.

The principles of independence, integrity and intelligence define our culture. Our clients include the world's leading technology, consumer, energy and financial services institutions. Our commitment to them — and to our people — is to deliver on our founding aim of building the world's leading macro advisory firm.

Portfolio

  • Engagement

    Middle East Market Expansion

    Facing a fragmenting market and changing regulation, a global financial services company uses MAP's advice to enhance its performance and footprint in the Middle East.
  • Engagement

    Managing a Complex Portfolio in a Volatile World

    MAP provides ongoing and ad-hoc advisory services to a significant investor client, which manages a complex portfolio of equity, credit, interest rate, commodity and foreign exchange exposures.
  • Engagement

    China Market Strategy

    A global consumer goods company achieves success in China with support from MAP's distinctive macro insights.

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