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).


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Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

It is not

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


the nuclear whatever it is IRI that must go. No agreement short of a complete dissolution of the Islamic republic will do. 


Limbo is what it's all

by alimostofi on

Limbo is what it's all about. If you had war then it will all be over. If you had 100% strangle on Hezbollah Regime it would be over.

But to sell weapons they just needs a little fear very often.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi


I: El Baradei managed to do

by alimostofi on

I: El Baradei managed to do just that for very long time. What you are saying is old hat.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi

iraj khan

What if

by iraj khan on

there would be a compromise during the next meeting between Iran and 5+1 group?

I like to see the reactions of the naysayers who have given up hope for a peaceful resolution of Iranian atomic energy.

In case it happen then, Trita Parsi along with National Iranian American Council should be chosen as Iranian of the Year and Iranian American Organization of the Year for their insight.

I'm just saying,


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Dear Rea

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


You are very much right and T. Parsi is just making a fool of himself. This from me a person who gave him the benefit of the doubt. Sadly Dr. Parsi has totally failed and proved that his detractors have been right.

One thing I learned is to not be ashamed to admit a mistake. I now admit that I was mistaken; TP  is at best a fool. How would anyone in their right mind want to prop up the monster that is Khamenei is beyond me.

NIAC needs an internal power shift. With a new leadership which sets a new course and reject its present path. NIAC should stop playing the job of IR apologist and work for real good of Iran. Not to keep IR in power for god knows what reason.


Obama n Khamenei

by Rea on

Must be a joke.  How can anybody compromise with this sick old man ?!

So, this is T. Parsi, wow.


Iraj khan lies

by Siavash300 on

"They are Iranian,

they live in Iran,

they speak Persian/Farsi" Iraj khan


These picture shows those who are ruling Iran are NOT Iranian. They're beaten up Iranians during Green movement. They're bare feet desert Arabs from Gaza or southern Lebanon.

So why are you lying Iraj khan? why?


Stockholm Syndrome Most

by alimostofi on

Stockholm Syndrome

Most Iranians in Iran suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.


FB: astrologer.alimostofi


So Iraj Khan

by Faramarz on

Their actions are justifiable because of their race.

I see!

That is the classic definition of racism.

One day you surrender to them because they sent 10-year olds to walk on mines and today you are saying that everything goes as long as they are born in Iran and speak Farsi. You guys are hanging to every straw to support this Regime.

Pathetic, and that's putting it mildly, very mildly.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Are they Iranian

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Well yes theoretically they are Iranian but not representative of Iranian people. Being Iranian does not mean you are Muslim and definitely does not require it. But legitimate requires being representative.



by alimostofi on

Anyone who puts Islam before Iran is not Iranian first.
Anyone who puts capital punishment before life is not human.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi

iraj khan


by iraj khan on

They are Iranian,

they live in Iran,

they speak Persian/Farsi/Azari/Arabic/Kurdish/..

and are Muslim.

Yes, they are undemocratic, repressive, religious, etc but they are Iranian. 

It only shows the poverty of intellect among those who refuse to see.

I wonder on what planet they live on?


S: Yes they are not Iranian.

by alimostofi on

S: Yes they are not Iranian.

They are Hezbollahi. Anyone who accepts them as Iranian pretty much explains where they come from.

The only non violent way to remove this regime is to remove their association to being Iranian. We can do that in our own sentences.

If you call them Iranian then you are not Iranian.

Many people call them IR or Mullahs or some rude names. They are Hezbollah Regime or HR.

We can pack a hefty punch if we all said HR.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi


Trita's mistake

by Siavash300 on

"If Iran would agree to this........" trita parsi

correct version of above statement is

"if ruling mullahs in Iran agree to this......."

When you're talking about Iran, please remember there were around 3 million on streets of Tehran chanting against ruling mullahs in June 2009. Similar situations were in the other Iran's cities. They are not dead, they are still alive and waiting for opportunity to come out again. A small islamic gang with gun in their hands are running the country. They have no connection with Iranian people. West knows that too.  


Looks like I'm too late


The war mongers are in full force denouncing anyone who supports diplomacy.

Mohammad Ala

Those who favor war on Iran

by Mohammad Ala on

. . .  are living outside of Iran (LOL).

Can Iranians learn?  Here is something to watch and learn.   Meanwhile, keep itching ex-Iranians.


if u go away on a summer day....

by مآمور on

the best of us would be those who will answer the call on duty when a war is broken out, no matter which side. 

Those with tendency to think 'only a war is the solution' should be even more eager to pick up the call!!

for the rest of us just remember that Persian saying

u said it I believed u

u repeated it I doubted u

u repeated it again I knew u r lying

I wear an Omega watch

G. Rahmanian

Very Well Put, vildemose!

by G. Rahmanian on

But it's not the Mullahs who don't understand. The Mullahs have been digging their own graves since they came to power and they know it. They have no choice other than creating tensions to help prolong their rule.

It is IR's apologists who distort the facts, put the blame on others for the regime's economic and political failures, and justify its atrocities vis-a-vis Iranians.


I  believe we (the US)

by vildemose on

I  believe we (the US) are itching to get involved militarily in a more direct way than we already are; all for geopolitical reasons (Russian naval base and influence; remove threat against israel; weaken iran by removing Assad, removing Hezbollah in hopes of Shia-Sunni regional secterain war , etc. This is not going to happen overnight. I believe this is a very long-term plan of attrition.

The mullahs have to understand that the US does not have to be flexible because we are not talking about EQUALS here.  The US is not afraid of war or its consequences for the oridnary people as long as the 1% always profits from war; any war, the rest of 99% can go to hell.

The mullahs at this point have no choice but to make peace with Israel, US et al and stop their terrorist activities if they want Iran to remain in one piece or to save their own muderous reign.

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

iraj khan


by iraj khan on

I never have said I believe that AIPAC runs the White House'

but AIPAC does influence both houses of Congress greatly.

As for your question which president?

My president is president Obama, since I don't live in Iran or Israel (God forbid).



 HG: that's a great

by vildemose on

 HG: that's a great picture...Obama can't be too happy about that racial slur...

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.


 Russia Is Massing Troops

by vildemose on

 Russia Is Massing Troops On Iran's Northern Border And Waiting For A Western Attack

Read more: //g2bulletin.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=4411#ixzz1rfBw59C0

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.


Iraj Khan

by Faramarz on

Which President do you want to compromise as much as he can, President Parsi, President Ahmadi or President Shimon Peres (since you believe that AIPAC runs the White House)?

Please rest assured that there won't be a war, but there will be violence as in Syria since this Regime as we Iranians say in Farsi will not go with Good Language (Zaboon-e-Khosh!)

hamsade ghadimi

after villifying obama for

by hamsade ghadimi on

after villifying obama for the past four years, the iri and its supporters now "seemingly" want to strike a deal with him (in the name of peace nontheless!) just in case obama loses his re-election campaign. 

this picture is much more befitting of the article:


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

*** the uranium

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


this is just another side issue which we all know is bogus. Makes no difference if they make 20% or 100%. Get to the real stuff of IRI vs Iranians.

iraj khan

Mr President,

by iraj khan on

compromise as much as you can,

Ayatollah Khamenei, compromise as much as you can,

we need Peace at this time more than any other time.

As for Israelis, I don't think they want peace, they want land and more of it, greedy bunch they are. War is the only way to get more land, as far as they are concerned.


 Sounds like IRan is at a

by vildemose on

 Sounds like IRan is at a crossroad again?? In the large scheme of things and in the long run: What is Iran's Olaviat today given that the so-called enemy is much bigger and more than willing to go to war??

 ما اولویت کشور خودمان را تشخیص ندادیم و مقصر کی بود؟ --HJahnashahi

 Why doesn't Mr. Parsi promote peace between Israel and IRI instead of pitting Iranians against Israeli just to benefit the IRI??? What's wrong with signing a peace treaty??

Last time IRI gholdor bazi daravord, we lost a million and half of our bravest patriots in a foolish attempt to capture Jerusalem via karabala?? When are we going to learn our lesson?? How many more lives should be lost to keep the IRI thieves and looters in power for 30 more years?

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.


hass-terical, go back to defending IRI killers & rapists

by AMIR1973 on

West-residing IRI Groupies and propagandists of the Islamist terrorist regime who prefer to live in the Evil West rather than the same IRI on whose behalf they vomit their garbage propaganda are in no position to lecture anyone. Got it?


Upset that there won't be a war?

by hass on

Wow - people are so upset here that the US and Iran may actually possibly resolve their difference and not end up in a war. As self-proclaimed IRanians you're all an embarassment. But don't worry, Israel pulls Obama's strings, and Israel wont allow any real deal. Iran has been trying to compromise with the US over the nuclear issue for years now but the US has been ignoring all the offers. So go back to your Shahs of Sunset lives.


The Jews have no desire to

by vildemose on

The Jews have no desire to occupy Iran and rule the people. IRI could cease to be a terrorist  country by signing a peace treaty with both Israel and US.

Is messianic terrorist IRI ready to do that in the name of compromise and Peace???

 A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.