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Swedish think tank: Iranian–US engagement should focus on more than the nuclear issue

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute –– Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s appearance at the UN General Assembly last week, his historic telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama and the earlier meeting between the Iranian and US foreign ministers confirm the two countries’ efforts to seriously re-engage in dialogue on Iran's nuclear programme. However, the two countries should not ignore the other issues on which they can fruitfully cooperate, writes SIPRI’s Bruce Koepke.

Rouhani has maintained a tone of constructive engagement with the USA within his overall framework of moderation since his election victory in June. In an address to a US audience on 27 September, he reiterated that the Iranian Government is ‘committed not to work towards developing and producing [a] nuclear bomb’ and ‘that the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are contrary to the Islamic norms’.

The predominance of Iran’s nuclear programme as the priority topic in Iranian–US relations reflects the fact that the Iranian Government needs to t ake concrete steps to address international concerns about the scope and nature of that programme in order to pave the way for a gradual lifting of interna tional sanctions.

In the light of the recent positive signs, it is important that the USA and Iran do not lose sight of other key areas that would also benefit from improved cooperation and which could contribute to broader security in Iran’s neighbourhood.

In particular, with the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014, Iran and the USA could cooperate constructively on the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan to prevent a recurrence of civil war and return of radicalized insurgents and to support the establishment of a viable security mechanism in the region. Constructive bilateral engagement on Afghanistan would undoubtedly also be a confidence-building measure that could in turn facilitate discussions on a tangible resolution of the historical standoff between Iran and the USA.

For further insights see Bruce Koepke's most recent report below, Iran's Policy on Afghanistan: The Evolution of Strategic Pragmatism.

Iran's Policy on Afghanistan: The Evolution of Strategic Pragmatism
Iran, with its breadth of experience in Afghanistan and long support for the reconstruction and stabilization of Afghanistan, could continue to play a constructive role after the withdrawal of international forces in 2014. In this report the author details the evolution of Iran's policy of strategic pragmatism in Afghanistan. Understanding this policy could provide an opportunity for the international community to re-engage with Iran on a broad range of issues of mutual concern.

This paper is published under the Wider Central Asia Initiative, a two-year SIPRI project to promote and facilitate dialogue among the main external stakeholders in Afghanistan's future. The initiative is funded by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

About the author
Dr Bruce Koepke (Australia/Germany) is a Senior Researcher with SIPRI's Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Programme who has been working on and in Afghanistan for the past 15 years. Prior to joining SIPRI he was employed with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), initially based in northern Afghanistan and Kabul and later in Tehran, where he headed UNAMA's liaison office.


Last Updated (Wednesday, 02 October 2013 01:53)


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