Media Briefs

Europe's Iran Diplomacy

In recent years, Iran's nuclear program has become an issue of major concern to Europe and the United States. Iran insists that its nuclear program is aimed solely at producing peaceful nuclear energy. Many observers on both sides of the Atlantic, however, suspect that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Neither the United States nor Europe wants Iran to have a nuclear bomb. How can Europe and America ensure that Iran's weapons program remains peaceful? There is no obvious answer. Iran is in an unusually strong position, as high oil prices give it substantial power over the world economy. Meanwhile, the United States is tied down in an ongoing war in Iraq that weakens its capacity for military or diplomatic action.

In Iraq, the United States took an extremely aggressive approach to the possible threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, ultimately alienating key NATO allies. By contrast, in the case of Iran, Europe led trans-Atlantic diplomacy from the summer of 2003 to the summer of 2006. Europe's preferred approach also contrasted with that of the United States. Whereas the United States pressed for immediate punitive action against Iran, Europe favored a policy of “critical dialogue” that emphasized what Iran had to gain by eschewing nuclear weapons. This brief explains the logic, history, and results of the European strategy.

  • The Stakes
  • The Recent Evolution of Iran's Relations with the West
  • The Failure of EU Incentives
  • The Road to Sanctions
  • EU Trade with Iran
  • The End of Iran's Nuclear Saga?

Download this brief (PDF)


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