What's next for the Iran talks?

As successful as this recent summit was, much depends on the second round of discussion where both sides must begin to offer concrete suggestions and options for ending the nuclear standoff. The Iranians must end the secrecy and double-talk over its nuclear program and open its sites, specifically Fordow and Parchin, to IAEA inspectors. The West must show patience while Iran must continue to demonstrate seriousness of purpose and openness about the nuclear program.


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By allowing IAEA inspectors into Fordow, Prachin, and other sites, Iran could start to build Western confidence in the purported civilian purpose of its nuclear program. This newfound transparency would be a stunningly successful move on the part of the Iranians, and do much to reduce the current levels of tensions. A second practical move for the Iranians would be to immediately halt the production of 20% enriched Uranium that they have pledged to stop only when the requirements for civilian use are met. Halting this higher-level enrichment before Iran has enough material to produce a nuclear weapon would build Western confidence in Iran’s claim about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

In return, United States could possibly reduce some low-level sanctions, allowing Iran to buy or sell certain non-oil commodities easier. A second option would be to lift the threat of conflict with Iran. With oil prices over $100 a barrel and at near historic levels at the pump this policy has the power to drive down gas prices.

Heightened sanctions on Iran are making it much more difficult for them to sell their approximately 2 million barrels per day of exports, but Iran’s threat to world oil markets does not lie solely with the oil it produces. They have threatened actions to block the Strait of Hormuz to sea traffic in response to an attack by either Israel or the United States.

This could stop over 15 million barrels per day (17% of total world supplies) of oil from reaching world markets. The very chance of such a catastrophic shock to global oil supplies has caused speculators to bid up the price of oil. If that risk premium were removed, prices would swiftly drop. So, the most effective way to reduce gasoline prices is to find a diplomatic solution to this conflict.

We should not underestimate how difficult these steps will be for each side tomake. This conflict has entrenched both states into completely opposite positions and whereas it seems there is no room for agreements and compromise, Iran and the United States both have mutual interests.  Internal politics within the P5+1 and Iran have made it exceedingly difficult to come to a political settlement. China is an importer of Iranian oil and Moscow has its own foreign policy with Iran. The P5+1 and Iran must attempt to push aside internal politics and conflicts to avoid a costly and unneeded war.

All parties understand that progress at the next round is critically important to avoid future conflict. Further tensions harm both sides. For the United States, gas prices may continue to increase and weigh down its economic recovery. For Iran, further oil sanctions set to take effect this July may serve to convince the government that compromise on this nuclear issue is not possible.

What both the P5+1 and Iran must do at the next round of talks is propose real and concrete solutions to this conflict in order to reduce tensions in the region and avoid the looming specter of war. Easing tensions and stepping back from the ledge will help everyone involved.
Let’s support this next of talks—it’s in everyone’s interest.

Retired Lieutenant General Don Kerrick, Retired Brigadar General John Adams served in the U.S. Army and are members of the Consensus, part of the American Security Project.  Brigadier General USMC ret. Stephen Cheney is CEO of the American Security Project.