How to Deal with the Iranian Nuclear Programme?

A dinner discussion with Yossi Beilin

11. März 2008
By Carolin Moje

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By Carolin Moje, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
February 19, 2008

Summary Dinner Discussion with Yossi Beilin in Berlin, February 2008

On 18 February 2008, the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung hosted a dinner discussion with Knesset member Yossi Beilin in Berlin which was attended by politicians, journalists, diplomats, and academics. According to Beilin, the real danger of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability will be the shifting balance of power in the Middle East rather than an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel. As Iran is a rationally motivated actor, well-targeted and sophisticated sanctions should manage to stop the nuclear program. Such sanctions could target the oil export and oil-related technology. Iran’s nuclear program should remain before the Security Council, and a potential moving of the issue from the agenda of the Security Council to the IAEA should be prevented.

With regard to the Middle Eastern peace process, Beilin named the lack of US support for an Israeli-Syrian peace deal as a challenge. Even though the current situation was deplorable, it is not hopeless. The majority of the current Knesset would support a peace with the Palestinians and Syrians. Important parts of the Palestinian leadership are also committed to peace. Hamas’ power in the Gaza Strip is a big challenge since no credible Palestinian counterpart capable of implementing a potential peace agreement exists. However, the outgoing US and Palestinian presidencies leave a window of opportunity to seize the moment and go ahead with talks this fall, possibly through the framework of the Geneva Initiative. Beilin underlined the importance of the US role in the region. However, the EU and Germany should stop to follow the US lead and become more assertive in the region, possibly in the areas of financing a peace agreement with the Palestinians. There should be no competition between the US and the EU for relations with Israel though.

The following discussion centered the negotiations about the Iranian nuclear program. In contrast to other participants, Beilin argued in favor of unconditional talks. Others called for sanctions by the most important countries to increase the pressure on Iran. The differing threat perceptions in the EU and Israel were addressed as well as the US National Intelligence Estimate’s assumption about Iran’s rational decision-making. If accurate, it could open the way for political diplomacy between the US and Iran.