Genuine negotiations

Security Council needs new approach towards Iran


Genuine negotiations
by Reza Nasri

Since 2006, Security Council resolutions aimed at compelling Iran to halt its nuclear activities have not only been counterproductive, but they have undermined the Council’s legitimacy even further. This is not just because the Security Council has sheltered an “Axis of Evil” nation from the current global financial crisis by cutting its ties to the doomed market. It is also because the Council’s irrational and illegal demands no longer suit Iran’s new stature within the regional and international conjuncture.

The balance of power has changed in the Middle East in Iran’s favour and this should be reflected in the Security Council’s policies. The Security Council can only obtain results from Iran if it abandons its obsolete, confrontational approach and recognize Iran as a significant regional power. In concrete terms, this means that the Security Council should put a moratorium on the sanctions and reassign Iran’s dossier back to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It must also restore Iran’s trust in the “international community” by establishing a sustainable cooperation regime in which Iran would play the role it deserves as a regional power.

However, there is a long way to go to rebuild that trust. Indeed, Iran’s history with the Security Council is a rather bleak one because of the Council’s rather “selective” approach to collective security.

A History of Unjust Bitterness: The Oil Nationalization Episode

Iran still remembers the Security Council’s attempt to quash Iran’s efforts to nationalize its oil industry in 1951. Iran’s effort to repossess its sole source of income from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) was dubbed a “threat to international peace and security” in a resolution introduced by the United Kingdom. This revealed the tendency of major powers to use the Security Council as an instrument of intimidation at the expense of Iran’s right to self-determination. The Security Council displayed its predisposition to use the discretion afforded by Article 39 of the United Nations Charter (to determine what constitutes a “threat” to peace) in a manner that would only serve the economic interests of one of its permanent members. Needless to say, all subsequent proposals to amend Article 39 to specify the criteria for threats have been rejected. The Iranian experience testifies to the fact that the Council is not bound by an objective policy in making its determinations.

The Iran-Iraq War: The Security Council’s Passive Aggressiveness

Iran also remembers when the Security Council remained silent as Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied over 30,000 square kilometers of Iranian territory—in violation of the June 13, 1975 Treaty on International Borders and Good Neighbourly Relations. Iraq’s military intervention was a violation of its conventional bilateral obligations and a breach of Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, which in principle the Security Council should have enforced. By any interpretation, Iraq’s use of force is defined as an act of aggression under Article 3 of the General Assembly’s 1974 Definition of Aggression resolution. Thus, Iraq should have been condemned for committing acts against international peace, as provided in Article 5(2) of the aforementioned resolution and as prescribed by customary law and the binding text of the Charter. But the Security Council chose not to intervene immediately. In fact, it took the Council almost a week to respond to the attacks, before modestly calling upon both parties to “refrain immediately from any further use of force.” Iraq’s premeditated act of aggression was neither explicitly mentioned, nor was the aggressor ordered to withdraw its forces from Iranian territory.

The Security Council’s silence in the previous example becomes even more questionable when compared to similar circumstances. For instance, the Security Council reacted much more swiftly when Iraq invaded Kuwait ten years later. Less than six hours after receiving the first reports of the Iraqi incursion into Kuwait, the Council adopted Resolution 660—which condemned the invasion and demanded an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Iraq to the pre-war borders. By contrast, in the Iran-Iraq war it had waited for the Iraqi military to advance deep into Iran’s territory, providing Saddam Hussein with the upper hand in the subsequent cease-fire negotiations.

In fact, the Council did not question the legality of the Iraqi attack against Iran in any of the resolutions following the initiation of hostilities. In 1986, after six years of war had caused over half a million Iranian deaths and the displacement of over 1.5 million people, the Security Council contented itself to deplore “the initial acts which gave rise to the conflict between Iran and Iraq” in Resolution 582. It refrained once again from explicitly naming the aggressor. Amazingly, none of the Security Council resolutions mentioned even succinctly Hussein’s three-year, illegal occupation of Iranian land. After all, Saddam Hussein was a major Western and Soviet ally in the 1980s.

Resolution 598 of July 20, 1987 is equally disappointing. In this resolution, which was issued nearly seven years after the beginning of hostilities, the Security Council determined the existence of “a breach of the peace as regards the conflict between Iran and Iraq” and ”demanded that the parties observe an immediate cease-fire [...] and withdraw all forces to the internationally recognized boundaries without delay.” But instead of defining Iraq as the aggressor, the Security Council again simply deplored “the initiation and continuation of the conflict.” The aggressor and the victim were once again treated equally.

The Security Council’s and Iraq’s War Crimes: The Morbid Silence

The Security Council also disappointed with respect to Iraq’s violations of humanitarian law. Despite the fact that Iraq was a party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, Iran conclusively demonstrated that Iraq used chemical weapons against the Iranian military and civilian population. The Council remained mute on the subject until six years after the beginning of the war.

Despite numerous instances in which Iraq had used chemical weapons, the term “chemical weapons” only appeared in a resolution in 1986. The Council timidly deplored “the escalation of the conflict, especially territorial incursions, the bombing of purely civilian centres, attacks on neutral shipping or civilian aircraft, the violation of international humanitarian law and other laws of armed conflict and, in particular, the use of chemical weapons contrary to obligations under the 1925 Geneva Protocol.” No further action was taken against Saddam Hussein. Instead of laying the blame on Iraq, the Security Council slyly invoked “both parties” in each reference to the use of illicit weapons. There was not a shred of evidence suggesting that Iran had also used such an arsenal.

In total, Iraq dropped over 360 chemical bombs on Iran against both military and civilian targets, resulting in more than 100,000 casualties. Today, between 45,000 to 55,000 Iranians are still suffering from excruciating skin blisters and respiratory problems as a result of their direct exposure to these weapons. Each year many children are born with deformities and chronic disabilities related to the mothers’ exposure to chemical warfare. For millions of Iranians, these victims’ agony is still a vivid reminder of the international community’s morbid silence in the face of the Iraqi regime’s undisputable war crimes.

The Security Council’s Tired Pattern

Today, Iranian public opinion and the political establishment perceive the Security Council’s sanctions against Iran as yet another attempt by entrenched powers to obstruct the country’s development. This time, the conflict is over Iran’s nuclear program. The West’s failure to provide compelling evidence of Iran’s deviation from a peaceful program further reinforces this perception. In fact, the public is well aware that the IAEA has conducted scrupulous inspections of Iran’s military and nuclear facilities, including at least nine unannounced visits in the past few months. So far, all IAEA reports have exonerated Iran of allegations that its peaceful nuclear program had progressed to a weapons program. The IAEA and American, European, and Israeli intelligence communities have never confirmed the existence of a non-peaceful nuclear program in Iran. The IAEA reported in its February 2006 report (GOV/2006/15) that it “has not seen any diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” and the Agency’s position has not changed to this date. Therefore, the Security Council’s obstinate portrayal of Iran’s nuclear program as a “threat to international peace and security” is as discredited in the Iranian court of public opinion as the Council’s similar understanding of Iran’s attempt to nationalize its oil industry in the 1950s.

A New Approach Needed

Today the strategic landscape has changed, and most experts agree that Iran has become a regional power. It is perhaps the only local actor in the Middle East that can contribute to the stabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan and facilitate the United States’ exit from its current crisis. Since the balance of power has greatly shifted in its favour, Iran can neither be omitted in the Middle Eastern equation nor can it be manipulated or coerced as in the 1950s and 1980s. The world needs Iran to stabilize the region and to contribute to international peace and security.

Iran can very well afford to disregard any resolution emanating from the Security Council. This not just because Iran’s coffers are filled with petrodollars and its influence in the region is growing. It is also because the United States is militarily and financially paralyzed. Furthermore, the instability of the global financial markets has rendered futile and irrelevant any effort to isolate Iran by extending sanctions against it. The sanctions only role is to inflame Iranian public opinion without achieving the desired results.

The only way forward must be to engage Iran in genuine negotiations. International peace and regional stability have long been undermined by an unreasonably protracted enmity between Iran and the United States. Both nations need a shift of paradigm characterized by a clear rupture with hostile rhetoric and outdated policies. The new approach must aim to establish a sustainable cooperation regime that would both secure Iran’s long-term interests, including its inalienable rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and guarantee its cooperation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the Middle East peace process.

In order to persuade Iran to cooperate on Middle Eastern security matters and its nuclear program, it is imperative to first address Iran's insecurity. Nuclear states surround Iran. Hostile Arab governments have territorial claims over large swaths of Iran. Terrorist and separatist groups, such as Jondollah in the Sistan-Baluchestan province and Khouzestan Arab separatists, are being financed by external forces. American troops are stationed at Iranian borders and their warships, though technically in international waters, cruise only a few minutes from Iranian shores. Iran will not comply with any demand until Western powers genuinely ally these concerns.

The first concrete step towards a new approach is to prevent a manufactured “Iran threat” from becoming the cornerstone of the new American administration’s foreign policy. The terminology used to describe Iranians must be more culturally sensitive. For instance, the new American administration must avoid condescending terms such as “carrots and sticks”-- which is meant for donkeys rather than human beings in the Iranian cultural context-- must be avoided by the new American policy-makers because they will be counter productive to the trust-building process. As a practical measure, Iran’s nuclear case should be withdrawn from the Security Council’s agenda and sent back to the IAEA, the sole UN institution technically qualified to review the matter. This move would not only “depoliticize” Iran’s nuclear question and pave the ground for a conclusive agreement, but it would also constitute a great step towards a genuine US-Iran rapprochement. The next American president should seize this opportunity, without any precondition, and put this high on his agenda.

Reza Nasri is an international lawyer with a degree in law from the
University of Montreal. He is the co-founder of "Roads to Peace," a
foundation that aims to facilitate the Iran-US rapprochement through
"people-to-people" diplomacy. He was a counsel at the "Clinique
Internationale de Défense des Droits Humans" in Montreal, Canada,
through which he has cooperated on various research projects with the
International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) in Paris. He was a
member of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies in Toronto,
Canada. He currently resides in Geneva and works at the Graduate
Institute of International and Development Studies. This article, first published in the Harvard International Review, only
represents his personal views and not of any of the organizations or
institutions cited above.


more from Reza Nasri
Farhad Kashani

Roshanbean,   Which

by Farhad Kashani on



Which government in the Middle East has “killed its citizens 1000 times more than IRI”??

I like to see how you came up with that. Also, it is the “IRI regime which has rooyeh Sheytaan ra sefeed kardeh!!!”.


Also, are you saying that we should let fundamentalist blow us up and like you said “not complain” because of ALLEGED mistakes in the past? I say alleged because I believe the 1953 coup was entirely to be blamed on Shah and no one else. You cannot commit an act and blame it on someone else. Who came to power after the coup? Was an American guy or Shah, an Iranian person? In any event, that’s besides the point. I just wanna know this: are you saying we should let fundamentalists murderers, like your beloved regime, take over the world and “cont complain”??? yes or no? 


Please answer both parts of the questions.



Anonymous observer

by Roshanbeen (not verified) on

By your account Just about every Government ME is illegitimate hence they have done 10, 100, 1000 times more killing than IRI(Royeh IRIR ro sefeed Kardan) These are the governments who demonize other nation , call legitemately elected parties terrorists if they disagree with them. Bullies will destroy their buildings and kill their citizens if those paries do not succumb to aggressors will. Exactly, we are not talking about law of the jungle, but actions of world bullies have cornered people in ME countries to follow so called fundamentalism. Bullies have to choose between supporting the real democracies and not toppling them(Mossadegh) or face fundamentalism and not complain.



by capt_ayhab on

Thanks for your reply, and yes that original source is also mentioned there.


capt_ayhab [-YT]


Dear Capt_ayhab, The

by Ehsan12345 (not verified) on

Dear Capt_ayhab,

The article was originally published at Harvard International Review:


I think you should also mention the original link at to be on the safe side.


The supreme leader has

by sosad (not verified) on

The supreme leader has already pre-empted the re-election of Ahamdinejad. The leadership is becoming more militant.


The Power Structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran: transition from populism to clientelism, and militarization of the government" published in Third World Quarterly (December 2005). Full text


Khatami is only to pacify the internal dissenters for a while.

Ahmadinead will get his war with the Great Satan.



by capt_ayhab on

Excellent article

With your permission I posted the article in a blog in, with appropriate references to this thread and the gentleman of the author.



If you have any problem or if you do not want this article to appear there advise me and I shall remove it promptly.


capt_ayhab [-YT]


UNSC is a US tool, a joke of an agency

by Jaleho on

Thanks for the nice article. The Security Council is the proven political arm of the United States. Whatever the US can not get by its economic prowess and bribery, buying other countries in the UN by either money or intimidation, it will get by the brute political force in the UN security council, and if failed by direct military force. Your article is very timely since the political, economic and military power of the US goes hand in hand, and with the erosion of US economic and military power, a reduced influence of the US and its lackeys in the world arena, and the enhanced role of the REAL powers in different regions is overdue.

Regarding Iran-Iraq war you have shown how the UNSC has been a complete tool of the US policies. May I just add few other outrageous act of UNSC in addition to the most shameful negligence of the UNSC regarding Iraqi use of chemical weapons against Iran:

-Not only the UNSC failed to act regarding that most inhumane use of chemical weapons, the newly declassified US documents reveal that at times the US asked the UNSC to do whatever the Iraqis have been demanding the Americans to do in SC! For example, from the National Security Archives, you can look at documents 54 and 51 from the following link // :

 On March 30, 1984, the Security Council issued a presidential statement condemning the use of chemical weapons, without naming Iraq as the offending party. A State Department memo circulating the draft text observed that, "The statement, by the way contains all three elements Hamdoon wanted" [Document 51]." 

Furthermore, US support of Iraq, and its sanctioning of the Iraqi crime led to the repeated use by Iraq of the same weapons even after the UNSC resolution 598, as in the Halabcheh's massacre of 5000 Kurds in 1988.

-US direct and official military aggression against Iran, starting Sept.21 of 1987 and its follow up in destroying Iran's navy, oil facilities, and the shameless downing of the Iranian an civilian plane did not get the due attention from the international agency.

-When Iraq attacked Iran, the first UN resolution No. 479, regarding "the situation between Iran and Iraq," did not refer to the UN charter regarding the inadmissible acquisition of land by force, and asked Iran and Iraq to simply stop the fight at the then-positions of Iraq being 110 Km inside Iranian territory!

At that time, Saddam requested complete sovereignty over Shat-al-Arab and return of the Tunbs and Abu Musa to Arabs.

- From the passage of Resolution 540 of Oct 1983, until Resolution 582 of Feb 24th of 1986,  a period of 27 months of war, there was not a single resolution regarding the cease fire or return to international borders. However, a mere 10 days after Iran acquired the Faw in Feb 10 of 1986, UNSC passed Res. 582 in which for the first time it is emphasized that the acquisition of land by force is inadmissible. UNSC did not have the same feeling when the original aggressors were 110 KM inside Iran and had used chemical weapons against all international law.


-Beside Iran, the UNSC has shown what a tool it is by preventing a cease fire in Lebanon and allowing Israelis to destroy Lebanon, and a similar inaction was seen in recent Israeli massacre in Gaza. However, we saw quite an immediate cry from the agency when Russia reacted to the idiotic action of the US-Georgian-puppet, Saakashvili.


But I guess, the most prominent example of how UNSC is just a tool of the US, and the best example of how it is forced to accept a change of order in international power, is China. Let's not forget that the US insisted that the pissant Taiwan, or Republic of China with the population of less than 20 million is the legitimate representative of China with over 1,300,000,000 population!! It gave all kinds of military support to ROC, all kind of economic advantages, until by 1971 the People's Republic of China FORCED THE US to stop being ridiculous and accept China as the real power and representative of China. Only the high stature of China, its ultimatum to any country which would recognize ROC and Taiwan, finally forced the international community to stop acting like a clown. It is not that the UNSC members do not know how ridiculous they act, how unfair they have been against Iran. Iran has to slap that power on their face and it is high time for it to do that. Thanks for the timely article.

Anonymous Observer

Illegitimate Government

by Anonymous Observer on

A government which does not respect the basic rights of its citizens (such as free speech, freedom of association, or even freedom of what to wear in case of women) has no legitimacy.  A government which solidified its hold on the country with a killing rampage of tens of thousands of people in the 1980s and early 1990s and the continued imprisonement of political activists, thinkers and journalists is not a legitimate government. 

Being a power--regional or super--does not give you legitimacy.  We are not talking about the law of the jungle here where the strong should get respect!  For the IRI to become a legitimate representative of the Iranian people, it has to essentially become a democtratic country over night, allow free press, freedom of expression and free elections (not the dog and pony show that they put up for the cameras every few years).  It must also deliver those responsible for the executions and other political opression tactics (which is essentially ALL of the current cadre) to an impartial and independent court of law for trial for their crimes against humanity.  Otherwise, the United Nations has an obligation to protect the interests of the Iranian people, which are a set of interests that are vastly different than that of the IRI, which is mostly interested in its own self-survival (goor-e-babayeh mardom ham kardan!!!).   


AMK: Well-done.

by nevertheless (not verified) on

AMK: Well-done. Unfortunately, our optimists cannot bring themselves to accept realties.

Most blogs, comments are not accurate, sourced, or are reality-based and almost always naively idealistic.

Most are very well-written but the content is always tilted toward one ideology or another and cannot be substantiated based on unbiased facts.

Never I have seen a pragmatic, unbiased analysis of things



by Roshanbeen (not verified) on

Please help me to understand what has happened in Africa, South east Asia, India North south America, Algeria, Iraq , Afghanistan and Belgians, French , Dutch , and British was not brute force? I am not big fan of USSR Or now Russia but , I am sick and tired of nauseating one sided comments like that. Crimes and brutality committed by so called western civilization is unmatched in history, and that is a fact not just my opinion.

IRI according to it's friends and foes is the only independent nation in the world( their biggest sin) , and that alone is a huge accomplishment beside many other advances. Westerners hate IRI because they are not budging to their demands and their demand of submission, nuclear, terrorism, and human rights issues are political tools to squeeze them, where we know there are far worse human rights violators and undemocratic government in the region who enjoy full support of so called western democracies.. I believe IRI has long way to go for establishing a free democratic and law abiding society, but out of three slogan (Esteghlal, Azadi, Joomhooreyeh Islami) 2 have been established I am sure you know which two.

IRI haven't committed anymore crimes than any other so called governments with western value. Who are British or french government to lecture others on human right where they have committed the most hanous crimes in Africa, India,Algeria and indo-china? I am not a IRI fan or agent or whatever you or others are going to accuse me of , but please help me understand. This current government is too powerful to be toppled and for now everything is going their way either by struck of luck or their genius diplomacy, I believe latter. So if there is a genuine attempt for democracy and prosperity in Iran it has to go through reform movement, Mr.Khatami announced his candidacy, which is a good start and hopefully he can implement those long waited reforms this time around. Western countries can help Mr.Katamie by lifting sanctions if they truly interested in those slogans of democratic society and so on.

Niloufar Parsi

reza khan

by Niloufar Parsi on

excellent article! they should not only move the nuclear issue back to the iaea, but also guarantee iran's security and give it full recognition for its status as a regional power.


The Real Test of a Real Human Right Activist is what?

by Anonymous500 (not verified) on

I would be interested to know if Mr. Nasri has ever worked with those honorable Iranian lawyers and Human Right activisists who have been instrumental in exposing the utterly ugly and criminal face of the Islamic Republic and its goons? Did Mr. Nasri have a say in any of the the UN Human Right Committees' condmentations (from 1982 to present) of the IRI's crimes against humanity as, for example, the masscre of Iranian political prisoners in 1989?

You could write all kind of nice articles condemning the Secuirty Council's history from 1945 to present, however what gives credence to a human right lawyer's legal reasoning and arguments is his/her support of both the letter and spirit of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I have never heared of Mr. Nasri being involved in anti-IRI activities during my two decades of research on this issue? I hope that I am wrong and this gentleman is a good and decent human rights lawyer. What I read above, does not give me much hope that we are looking at a blanced view in relation to IRI's three decades of consistent and egrigious violations of basic human rights in Iran.

Farhad Kashani

The REAL new approach

by Farhad Kashani on

Yes, the U.N does need a new approach towards the IRI regime, and that new approach is to treat the IRI regime the same way they treated the Aprtheid regime in S Africa, because IRI is Apartheid on steroids.

Every inch the world gives in to this regime, will make the regime think that its a victory. IRI thugs do not have the common sense, widsom and responsibility, to consider that as a good gesture. Rather, they would think what they have done in the last 30 years was right, and they will continue doing that, with much stronger resolve.

The world needs to treat the regime as it is, which is a brutal, fundamentalist and chaos causing bunch of thugs.

Arash Monzavi-Kia

Nicely written text, but completely flawed argument

by Arash Monzavi-Kia on

Every regime should be treated by how it treats its own people and other countries! As such, treating IRI as a dangerous donkey is not an insult, except perhaps to the biological donkeys.

IRI has never been open to negotiations, whether over the Hostages, the war with Iraq, the stand-off with US, and now the Nuclear question. IRI and its ruling class (the Hezbollah) only deal in the calculus of brute force. They take what they can take, hit whomever they can hit, and bow only to bigger brutes.

Take for example the submissive IRI stand vis-à-vis the USSR and now Russia. Although the Soviets and the Russians have for a century brutalized the Central Asian Muslims, occupied and devastated Afghanistan, and even now perpetrate the most horrible crimes in Chechnya; IRI has been the most respectful and submissive towards them. Why? Because they know that the Russians, unlike the West, can be brutally savage and can actually hurt them!

When dealing with IRI, the DONKEY analogy is perfect! An ignorant and primitive bunch that respect no one else, look at the world through an ideological sack, and are only driven by an absurd and stubborn single-mindedness. If you ask me, give them only the stick, till they start begging for a carrot; which by the way will come much sooner than you think!

Arash M-K


Well balanced view!

by Iruni (not verified) on

Thanks Reza for the article very well thought and realistic!

Iran is not LOOLOO KHOR KHOREH described by the West!

They should understand our culture as we try to understand their culture too!

The issue of Carrot and Sticks shows the people who are dealing with the situation in US are not aware of cultural meaning of these words! it is an INSULT in Persian culture to use this expression but it seems they do not get it...


Stick without the carrot

by Fred on

You say:

The terminology used to describe Iranians must be more culturally sensitive. For instance, the new American administration must avoid condescending terms such as “carrots and sticks”-- which is meant for donkeys rather than human beings in the Iranian cultural context-- must be avoided by the new American policy-makers because they will be counter productive to the trust-building process.” 

In your Iranian cultural etiquette guidebook when the Islamists tie up Iranian human beings, male and female, and flog them, that is stick without the carrot, or routinely and verifiably rape detainees is that “culturally sensitive” or routine Islamist behavior and ok?

BTW, this intentional intermingling the Islamist regime with Iranian people when it suites the regime is by now transparent and passé.


Great essay and right to the point

by Bavafa on

This is the only way forward if Iran is ever to gain its independence. As for the internal issues, that is a matter for the Iranian people specially those who live in Iran. If they choose to live in a religious state, then that's their choice. If they don't agree, then they must raise whether by voting or NOT voting.



This is all fine and dandy but...

by eroonman on

...blaming the west and external forces for Iran's misery in the last century, is perfectly legitimate. But one thing that is undeniable and in fact highly consequential to it's current century's misery, is that at the end of the day, after all the diplomats have met and all the UN councils have conferred, Iran, whether you love it or hate it, is still nothing more that a brutal dictatorship that oppresses it's people using an outdated, illegitimate pagan religion, that should have been reformed 100 years ago if for nothing more than to at least feign the feeblest attempt at validity in the modern world of modern religions.

NO, I say, as long as Iran is backward, and oppressive, and run by a plague of tyrants who fear modernity, and simple rock music and fashion, nothing can ever be gained. better to ignore them, and simply step around them.

At this pace of self hatred and oppression towards their own people, I am more worried of Iran using a nuke on itself, rather than Israel. Who knows, some mollah might interpret the instructions on the missile according to a sooreh in the ghoran and decide that he deserves 72 virgins more than the next guy.

Negotiating with freaks like this, assuming they are cogent beings, giving them a world stage to prance about and sell their twisted system of governance is an utter waste of time. You are only feeding the rats. At the end of the day, they are still vermin.