The EU and Iran’s Nuclear Programme: Testing the Limits of Coercive Diplomacy

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Series Details No.1, January 2009
Publication Date January 2009
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Abstract: The paper analyzes the E-3’s/EU’s diplomatic strategy vis-à-vis Iran and its nuclear programme against the theoretical background of coercive diplomacy. It investigates to what extent the E-3/EU strategy has met the theoretical criteria for coercive diplomacy to succeed. The paper addresses in particular the question why this strategy has so far, despite the “gradual turning of screw“1, not succeeded in dissuading Iran from pursuing fuel cycle activities. I argue that the E-3/EU coercive diplomacy approach vis-à-vis Iran has suffered from certain flaws: the objectivity and the legitimacy of the E-3/EU underlying objective and its specific demand have been seriously challenged not only by Iran and countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), but also by the fact that with France and the UK the E-3/EU embraces two Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), which has further fuelled the perception of unfairness. Finally, I argue that a “carrots and sticks” policy as pursued by the E-3/EU is unlikely to work out in the Iranian case, taking into account that the E-3/EU demand touches on Iran’s vital interests and on questions of prestige, regional supremacy and nationalism.

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