Obama and Khamenei Must Compromise

De-escalation of Iranian nuclear activities must be accompanied with a de-escalation of sanctions


Obama and Khamenei Must Compromise
by Trita Parsi

If President Barack Obama and Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei do not compromise at the upcoming nuclear talks next Saturday, the region will -- in the words of a diplomat involved in the matter -- head towards "total war." For the sake of world peace, both sides must compromise.

Yet, there are some indications that the next round of talks may differ little from previous failed discussions. Driven by limited political maneuverability at home, domestic pressure not to compromise, and a perception of strength that lures the parties to believe they can force on the other a fait accompli, the talks have often been about imposing terms of capitulation on the other.

It has never succeeded.

The White House is going into the talks with extensive demands. Iran must cease production of 20% enriched uranium, cease all activities at the underground Fordo facility and give up its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium.

From a non-proliferation perspective, these are reasonable demands. Iran has said that it would only enrich as much 20% uranium that it needs to produce fuel pads for its Tehran Research Reactor. If the West would provide Iran with the fuel pads, the White House reasons, Iran would have no reason to continue enriching at this level nor would it need its stockpile. And since Iran planned to use Fordo for enrichment at this level, demanding that those plans be set aside also seem reasonable.

If Iran would agree to this, the US's current conviction that Iran cannot dash for a bomb without getting caught would persist. Iran would need about a year to build a bomb, but would get caught within 30-60 days if it tried to build one, thanks to the current level of inspections. Iran's activities at Fordo and its growing stockpile of uranium enriched to 20%, however, reduces Iran's dash-out time and it could make it more difficult for the inspectors to catch any Iranian foul play. This is why the White House's focus is on Fordo and Iran's enrichment at 20%, and why Khamenei should agree to compromise.

What remains unclear, however, is what Obama is willing to put on the table. Thus far, White House officials have only indicated that Iran would be given fuel pads to produce medical isotopes and a promise not to impose new UN sanctions on Tehran.

This package is a non-starter to most observers - including to other P5+1 diplomats. The problem is not necessarily the demands, but the imbalance between what is demanded and what is offered.

A senior US official told me in an interview for my book A Single Roll of the Dice - Obama's Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press, 2012), that the US tried very hard to turn the October 2009 talks into a win-win. "Not because we wanted to do Iran a favor," he said, "but because there was no other way to get a deal."

There still isn't another way to get a deal.

By June, European oil sanctions will kick in. And the US is intensifying its campaign to strong-arm other states to cut oil imports from Iran. It appears highly unlikely that Iran would agree to give considerable concessions in return for a halt to new UN sanctions while other more biting sanctions continue to be added.

It seems unavoidable that any de-escalation of Iranian nuclear activities must be accompanied with a de-escalation of sanctions in order for a deal to be struck.

Obama's challenge is that there is almost no political space for lifting some of the existing US sanctions. Since Congress has imposed most US sanctions, Congress must also approve any changes to them. Last time Obama took a fight with Congress over Iran sanctions, he lost the Senate vote with 100-0. He is not going to pick another fight over this issue with Congress in a middle of his re-election bid.

Greater flexibility may exist in the EU and Asia. But as time passes, the less valuable the promise of lifting sanctions will become. For instance, the offer of Asian powers to reverse their cuts in Iranian oil imports only carries credibility for a few more months. Once the Asian refineries pay the cost of shifting away from Iranian oil, they are unlikely to double that cost by shifting back to Iranian oil. At that point, in the words of an Asian diplomat, the Asian powers "will lose their leverage."

Herein lies the contradiction of coercive diplomacy (the dual-track approach) combined with phased negotiations. Coercive diplomacy dictates that pressure must be put on the other side for it to compromise. The incentive offered to the targeted state to concede is an easing of the pressure once it ceases its objectionable policies.

In a phased approach, in which the deal is separated into several different steps, a contradiction emerges if the pressured state actually complies. On the one hand, a change of behavior should be rewarded with a reduction of pressure. On the other hand, additional pressure is deemed necessary in order to coerce the sanctioned state to continue to compromise for the ensuing steps in the phased approach.

This contradiction risks collapsing the talks because the sanctioned state will likely only accept that its concessions are met with additional pressure if it so weak that it has no choice but to accept capitulation.

There is a risk that Obama's silence on the incentives side is motivated by the logic of the phased approach, that is, demands will be made throughout the talks but real incentives will only be offered in the final phase. But there is also a chance that the silence is a calculated move. While demands can be leaked to the US media, incentives will only be presented at the negotiating table once a diplomatic process has been put in place.

So far, both sides have shown a greater willingness to take a risk for escalation than a risk for peacemaking. Both sides believe that only the other party is guilty of this lack of courage. For war to be avoided, both sides need to look themselves in the mirror.

First published in HuffingtonPost.com.

Trita Parsi is president of National Iranian American Council and author of the newly released book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press, 2012).


Recently by Trita ParsiCommentsDate
Bibi’s Three Steps Forward, One Back
Oct 13, 2012
Mistaken Path
Jun 22, 2012
Give Obama Elbow Room on Iran
Jun 15, 2012
more from Trita Parsi
Shazde Asdola Mirza

تریتا پارسی‌

Shazde Asdola Mirza


هر کس بخواهد که "جمهوری اسلامی" و "ایالات متحده" را همسنگ و همطراز جلوه دهد ... به هر دو ملت ایران و آمریکا خیانت می‌کند.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Response to LOL

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


  • I agree that greatest danger to Iran is the IRI regime. Thank you for a very good; valid observation.
  • You do have a personal tie to Iran; if not you would not be posting here :-) Your tie is the interest you show and I for one very much appreciate it.
  • I much prefer people's own words not quotes from others. Regardless of how wise or important. 


L: Disgrace

by alimostofi on

Mr Hamilton would never apply his statement to Iran. We are non-violent people and Hezbollah Regime is suffering from Persianization. They have slowly been dissolved by the richer Iranian peaceful culture of Knowrooz. 70 million in Iran and 300 in West Asia celebrate together at exactly the same. We have done it for thousands of years. That is more powerful than anything a Moslem or Christian or any political force can impress on us. The US military can not do anything to Knowrooz. Monguls Alexander have all become Persianized. You even celebrate your WASP festivals from what were Persian. Mr Hamilton knows Knowrooz's power.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi



by LoverOfLiberty on

I have no personal ties whatsoever to Iran or her people.

But, this White Anglo-Saxon Protestant American certainly agrees that the biggest threat to the Iranian people...is the Iranian regime itself.

And, I think the sooner the Iranian people as a whole wake up from their 30 year plus nightmare, the better.

Otherwise, to the Iranians who decide to remain ignorant of the danger the Iranian regime poses to Iranians, I have the following to say:

"A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one." - Alexander Hamilton



L: Money

by alimostofi on

No peace movement has enough money to win against a military company in the politician's private auction. Funnily enough The Noble Committee tries its best and has given prizes to the likes of Arafat.

On second thoughts why don't they give one to Khamenei. Lol

FB: astrologer.alimostofi



by LoverOfLiberty on


My (unfortunately) favorite part of that essay is the following:

"If the Nazis and the Communists between them didn’t overrun the whole world in the terrible 1940s, it was not because the international peace movement didn’t do everything in its power to leave the democracies trembling and helpless before the totalitarian threat. Had these people wised up and supported moderate programs of rearmament in the early 1930s and insisted that the western democracies take a stand against Hitler early on, there would have been no Nuremberg Laws, no Holocaust, no mass terror bombings of European cities, no Stalinist occupation of central Europe — and no Cold War.

Morally of course this was nowhere near as bad as what the Nazis and Communists did. The peaceniks didn’t will the slaughter of millions of innocent people: out of ignorance and conceit they merely created the conditions which let it happen. But while the peace movement wasn’t as evil as the dictators, the dictators could never have achieved their goals without their sanctimonious and timorous enablers in the western world."


L: Perception

by alimostofi on

Indeed the key word is "Perception". If somehow the world's perception is changed from an "Iranian" threat, to a Hezbollah threat to not just Arabs, but to the poor Iranian population, who have no jobs, then the real enemy would be seen.

Fact is that the US sucks Iranians brains, Arab money, to keep its economy afloat. It has only one dictum. Keep US interests first. They even have factories in China importing Iranian oil under the guise of being Chinese, to provide energy for slaves to work for Wal-Mart and Apple's Foxconn. To that end the Hezbollahis are about to receive an enormous new tanker built and financed by a Chinese bank. So much for sanctions. It is all a joke.

All these so called "negotiations" are just for show.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi



by LoverOfLiberty on

alimostofi: "No fear is greater than the dellusional fear that the US military salesmen have created. The new defense system for Arabs is all part of an elaborate excuse to legitimize US's presence in the Persian Gulf and sell sell sell weapons and keep US jobs."

So, I guess in your mind those same Arabs somehow shouldn't have the ability to defend themselves from a situation that they, themselves, perceive as a threat?

(After all, those same Arabs are the ones who have inevitably decided to purchase the means in which to defend themselves.)

And, if it isn't the US who is selling them such defense systems, why wouldn't it be potentially some other country who would provide such weapons, instead?


L: Dellusional

by alimostofi on

Thank you for your link. I found this part of it very funny and extremely dellusional.

"Understand and sympathize with their legitimate aspirations: that, the professors and preachers constantly told everyone else, was the sophisticated, modern and enlightened way to deal with these problems."

A bit like what Jimmy Carter thought of Khomeini. He thought that he was the Pope of Iran. Zbig who wanted to free Poland.

He had a grander scheme. To date he loves the Hezbollahis. He has to be so grateful to them, for taking the Bear's attention away from the Iron Curtain.

No fear is greater than the dellusional fear that the US military salesmen have created. The new defense system for Arabs is all part of an elaborate excuse to legitimize US's presence in the Persian Gulf and sell sell sell weapons and keep US jobs.

Never mind Iranian jobs.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi



by LoverOfLiberty on


A few words about "peace"...apparently to some people..."at all costs":

"It is just not true, historically speaking, that ‘peace movements’ lead to peace or, for that matter, support policies that will bring peace. More often than not, the opposite is true. Winston Churchill was a grizzled old British imperialist of the worst kind, but if Britain had listened to him instead of to its peace campaigners in the 1930s there most likely would never have been either a World War Two or Cold War. We can be very grateful that Ronald Reagan and the NATO leadership turned a deaf ear to the nuclear freeze movement; had those besotted idealists had their way the Soviet Union and the Cold War might be still with us today — along with nuclear arsenals much larger and much more dangerous than anything the US and Russia now have.

Not so long ago we had a word in our society for tiger-strokers: people who thought that if you soothed the savage passions of irrational dictators by treating them with respect and giving them treats then the dictators would become less dangerous.

We called them ‘appeasers’.

It’s a good word, and we could use it today.

I don’t say that reaching out to our enemies is always wrong. There are times when making a good deal with bad guys is the best you can do. Nixon’s opening to China came when that country was still in the throes of the violent and lawless Cultural Revolution. Opening the hot line to the Soviet Union so that the US president and the Soviet premier had a better chance of stopping an accidental nuclear war was also a good idea.

I think it was a good move on President Obama’s part to see if something couldn’t be done to improve relations with Russia — and with Iran. Now, after almost a year and a half, it’s become clear that Russia has responded, a little, while Iran has responded with new threats, new lies, and new shipments of weapons throughout the Middle East.

Broadly speaking, those who want to play “Let’s Make A Deal” with nasty foreign dictators aren’t always wrong. Some dictators like Franco just want to be left alone; others have a need to keep pushing. It’s a legitimate argument and subject for discussion about whether the Iranians are jerks like Franco who will settle down to peacefully hang homosexuals and torture dissidents at home if left to themselves or whether they are megalomaniacal nutcases who will interpret our forbearance as weakness — if we let them have Czechoslovakia they will start reaching for Poland.

Will Power Make Them Nice?

Maybe this is a sign of my entire unfitness to write about foreign policy, but it’s not easy for me to see why a nuclear Iran would be less pushy and demanding than what we have now. If the mullocracy is arming terrorists, interfering with neighbors, inflaming the Middle East and making intercontinental nuclear deals with the bad guys when Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons, what makes us think that becoming less vulnerable to American countermeasures would make the Iranians settle down into responsible world citizens? If they blow off our threats and respond with contempt to our overtures when they are weak, why would they treat us with more respect as a nuclear power? Won’t getting nuclear weapons over our objections prove internally that the radicals were right while the moderates were vacillating, cowardly and wrong? And if we are unwilling to stand up to them effectively when they don’t have nuclear weapons, who on Planet Earth will think we will rediscover our backbones when they do?

Those who think we can reach a ‘grand bargain’ with Iran that would either stop the nuclear program or enable us to coexist peacefully with a nuclear Iran are, I fear, making the same failure that the 1930s and 1940s peace campaigners made about the Nazi and Soviet regimes. They are confusing the legitimacy of the grievances that helped the Iranian regime seize power with the aims of the regime once in place. This regime is, I fear, a tiger not a kitten. Concessions and consideration don’t make it more moderate; they tell it that you fear it, tell it that its tactics of pressure and threats work, and encourage it to raise its demands."



the iri will not compromise

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

it won't even recognize the usa, the best use of our time is to elevate iranians collective conscience, because the regime is a gonner in a few years, but the problems Iranians will face will be grave and we at least need to improve enough to not be used by banksters, oil companies and the mass controlled media to betray our own patriots as Iranians did in 1979. //iranian.com/main/blog/amirparvizforsecularm...


iraj khan


by iraj khan on

 Trita Parsi:

"So far, both sides have shown a greater willingness to take a risk for escalation than a risk for peacemaking. Both sides believe that only the other party is guilty of this lack of courage. For war to be avoided, both sides need to look themselves in the mirror."

Keeping my fingers crossed. 


Furthermore, Iraj khan you should send message to Hamas....

by Siavash300 on

Aside sending a Peace message to people who are developing nuke bomb to kill million innocent people, you should send a message of PEACE to Hezbollah, hamas who are throwing rocket into jewish settlement area continusely, NOT I.C users. For example if you send message of PEACE to Crown Reza Pahlavi, he will smile and think ....what an idiot!!! he would have says :"when were you you in war when my father was in charge"?  Of course NOT, we were all living in peace and harmony with all neighbores including state of Israel when shah was in power. We also live in peace when crown Reza Pahlavi takes the office, so you don't need to be worry about peace.




Iraj khan targeting wrong audience

by Siavash300 on

"In the morning when I get up

I'll be back and type:

PEACE" Iraj khan

You should type it for mullahs who are deligently making atomic bomb to wipe off Israel from the map and kill million innocent people, NOT for I.C users. I am sure I.C users know Peace is good, but those Islamic gang who occupied Iran don't know it. So try to convince them about peace to allow "atomic committee" visit those nuclear sites.


B: US is the bad guy but not

by alimostofi on

B: US is the bad guy but not for TP's reasoning. The US Republicans want to get more donations than Democrats. Firms lime Lockheed have a lot to lose if we had civilized Iranians in Iran.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi


Yet another One-Sided SS TRITANIAC

by bahmani on

Once again, according to Parsi, the US is the bad guy, Iran the innocent just trying to make some cancer medicine for Iranian orphans.

Trita jan, THINK!

As much as you want to be a diplomat and aren't, Iran wants to be a lion tamer, and isn't. Like you putting your head in Hassan Daie's fat mouth (Jesus Trita! who could lose to Daie!!), Iran is also putting it's head into the mouth of the Lion.

This above all should prove to everyone, the height of the Iranian government's arrogance, ineptitude and sheer incompetence.

The single biggest reason why they should not be allowed to rule, is that they have endangered the lives of their citizens with this irresponsible act.

Do you see or get that in the least, Trita? Or are you seriously going to go down with your ship on this one?


To read more bahmani posts visit: //brucebahmani.blogspot.com

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Hi Rea

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Good to hear from you and hope Guadeloupe is treating you well!

I have been trying to decide and form an opinion. Initially I was supportive of them but begun to change based on actions of their leadership. Now about this issue I agree with you and definitely do not agree with Parsi. 

The bad thing is they have a good opportunity to make a difference. But have chosen to take a road which is alienating the diaspora whom they claim to represent. They are way too accommodating of IRI and seem to accept them as "legitimate" rulers of Iran. Sadly a number of people who oppose them are also very emotional and do not behave reasonably. Therefore we get a fight where we might have a force of good. 

Anyway that is my personal opinion. At this point I pretty much ignored them. They do not represent me or most people I know.

PS: I hope you have a great time in Guadalupe. How about a blog on what it is like there. I know very little about it. 

My best: VPK



by Rea on

Must admit I don't know much about NIAC except what I've read in those 2 yrs on IC.com.

I know there are people pro NIAC and those contra, and more often than not I tend to agree with the former. For a simple reason, i.e., it is easier to criticize work of others rather than to get up and do something ourselves. 

However, in this particular case I'm very much against what T. Parsi is saying. Anybody proposing a compromise with Khamenei is to be questioned. If a compromise of any sort were to be made, then it should be, IMHO, with AN and not with a self-declared, so-called "religious leader". 

PS. greets from Guadeloupe where mosquitos are getting ready for another assault, grrrrr.


AllAlavi you have no farr and seem blind.

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

You do not see the real corruption of the religious authorities in Iran, their real desire to be involved in government (against their own religious tennents),  their real mass crimes against Iranians, their weakening to less than 15% of what Iran once was economically, militarily and politically, their increase in poverty and underdevelopment of Iranians (these factors really truly destroy Islam where it matters most, in the minds and hearts of Irans leaders in villages).  Human rights can only be ignored by a few corrupted thugs and ayatollahs, not the leaders of Iran.  You are way off on the similarities of Shah and VF, for one people in the villages in their attitude and especially during eid, celebrate and rejoice in the majesty of the monarchy, not the case with the IRI which doesn't know joy, celebration, laughter, smiles, games.  The Shah was recognized as the leader and member of every recognized religion, so he waas the first Jew of Iran, the First Sunni, The First Bahaii, it meant what ever religion you were made not difference, because you were seen as an Iranian first, with the king as a member of all religions.  This is unique to only Iran in the whole world! 

So Iran could not be divided based on religion, race etc these are clear differences requiring thought to realize their significance in comparison with VF.  To say that people have fond memories of the 30 years shah was in power is about the biggest understatement one could make, no need to listen to peoples words on this one just watch what they do (like the hottest selling books being on books about the late shah and his successes), in contrast to what they do for Khomeini at his golden mosque (which the people used to throw feces at, wrapped in money).

The last thing Iranians wanted in 1979 was VF, the west scammed the country into it by promoting the ideal of democracy, using khomeini to pretend he would deliver it and lastly measuring the Shah as insufficient in comparision to perfection, then to top it off they would use his opponents works to out right lie about him and make him look like the devil.  The USA/UK/France brought extremists to power to destroy Iran, not to deliver democracy which the USA itself does not have, the IRI has done an excellet job at harming Iran and squandering all the good work the shahs team did for Iran, which iranians will not forget.

In three words Iranians mostly reflect of the late Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as giver, shah, peace

In three words Iranians mostly reflect of khameneii as thief, dictator, poverty.



Khamenei's retreat on nuke issue, aka "drinking the poison wine"

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

has already been started. In the backgrounds  of a big naval exercise by US navy in persian gulf, Khamenei,  petrified of a US led military attack,  has just met kufi anan about syria, has agreed to meet with western powers (in istanbul!!), also other noises of "reconciliation" from every corner of the fascist islamist regime is becoming deafening. Gone those empty  threats of "closing the straits of Hurmuz".

Ironically, this late U turn by the fascist regime, could be just too late and a big miscalculation. It could also strengthen the arguement of the hawks in US government who have been saying all along that Islamist regime understands one language only, the language of force......   

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."


Iraj the Liberal

by مآمور on

Iraj would be as much IRI supporter as Armstrong taking part in an anti-war rally. If I have ever known 'IRI supporters', their views, their desires and dislike.....I would tell u! by no means, he would get qualified for that!!

sorry Iraj, your application has been declined

I wear an Omega watch

iraj khan


by iraj khan on

No War,

I'm going to sleep now,

but I promise if I get up in the middle of night,

I'll be typing 


In the morning when I get up

I'll be back and type:




I let my (other) user IDs judge you

by AMIR1973 on

What kind of hateful, racist, pro-Rapist/Murderer Regime garbage was Mola Nasreddin posting that he finally got kicked out of Iranian.com (before returning as iraj khan?). I'm just wondering  .-)

iraj khan


by iraj khan on

posted twice.

Artificial Intelligence

Dear Mola

by Artificial Intelligence on

As soon as you are cornered you shout "Peace- Peace- Peace-...".

Then you say: " don't shoot me"

Mola Jan, you and your types have already shot themselves in the foot with all the Jew, AIPAC, Gaza Chosen people, Israel.com nonsense. 

There is no reason to shoot you. Your are the gift that keeps on giving. Your type and your favorite regime is the perfect gift that keeps on giving.

Stop the lies Mola!

I'm just saying.....



iraj khan

Wrong Again!

by iraj khan on

I support what the solid majority of Iranians and Americans nation are calling for:  


And again, this is Iranian.com

Not Israeli.com

Although, even some of the Israelis are thinking twice before starting a war on Iran.

Now go and call the rest of the Lobby to this thread to continue your attacks.

There is no 'Way to Peace',

Peace is the Way,

don't shoot me!





Multiple user ID Groupie iraj/Mola Nasredin

by AMIR1973 on

You already got kicked out of Iranian.com for violating the site's basic rules, so why don't you "watch your own mouth" first before worrying about other people's mouths. Second of all, the IRI is a terrorist entity which has killed, raped, and tortured thousands of Iranians, and Iranians won't forget those criminal parasites who lived off of welfare in the West while supporting this terrorist regime. Have you decided what your next user ID will be, Mola Nasreddin jaan?

iraj khan

Karo Kasebi

by iraj khan on

is preferred to

margo goshnegi.

Remove the Velayat Faghih

at your own expense,

and not at the Iranian peoples' expense.

No to Sanctoins, No to Assassinations, No to War.


نیاکی ها مشغول استخاره هستند!




خبر از واشنگتن اومد که فردا، روز جمعه، تریتا و نیاکی ها بعد از نماز جمعه یک استخاره گروهی میکنن که اینشالله این مذاکرات با رژیم به جایی برسه و دوباره کار و کاسبی برقرار بشه! 


V: that's the whole point.

by alimostofi on

V: that's the whole point. The US has given legitimacy to Hezbollah Regime by putting them on the public stage as "Iranians".

But where are the non-HR alternatives that the US or UN could help bring about? Imagine a government in exile that had agreed to UN's demands.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi