Geneva Talks on Iran: A New Beginning?

On October 18, 2013 the Atlantic Council held a members’ conference call entitled “Geneva Talks on Iran: A New Beginning?” with R. Nicholas Burns, professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at the Kennedy School. The call was moderated by Atlantic Council President and CEO Fred Kempe.

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Members’ Call with R. Nicholas Burns on Diplomatic Talks with Iran by Atlantic Council

Professor Burns emphasized the optimistic nature of the first round of talks between Iran and the P5+1. He noted the different and decidedly positive tone of the talks from previous negotiations with Iran but recognized that this is just the first round of discussions and that there are still steep barriers to success. Iran’s internal politics, most notably Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Iranian National Security Council, could pose a challenge to what will likely be a tough deal imposed by the United States. The other major variable is whether the US Congress will agree to lift some of the sanctions imposed on Iran. Given that the bulk of the deal will be negotiated in an election year, this is far from a sure thing.

Professor Burns put the likelihood of a deal at 30 to 35 percent, but he emphasized that these negotiations are much more optimistic than they have been in decades. He recommended for negotiators to test the seriousness of the Iranians early on in the discussions, including monitoring their actions towards US efforts in Syria and Afghanistan. For the talks to succeed, he stressed the need for a clear endgame.