Preventing An Interstate Conflict During The Diplomatic Crisis With Iran

Preventing An Interstate Conflict During The Diplomatic Crisis With Iran

Year(s): 2015.

Location: Iran.

UN Regional Group: Asia-Pacific.

Type of Conflict: Risk of Interstate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: Diplomacy.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The EU3 (the governments of France, Germany, and the UK) and the P5+1 (UN Security Council plus German government).

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: Ongoing international dialogue with the Government of Iran and the diplomatic initiatives of the EU3 and P5+1 helped to prevent the ongoing Iranian diplomatic crisis from escalating into an interstate armed conflict.

Description of Case 

The enrichment of uranium in Iranian territory has been a source of international tension and the subject of negotiations at the highest levels since the governments of Iran and the USA entered into a civil nuclear cooperation programme in 1957. Through the complexities of the Cold War, the Iranian Revolution, and the devastating Iran-Iraq War, the question of Iran’s nuclear capabilities – or more accurately, whether it should be allowed to develop them – has remained at the forefront of international relations.[1] The 2003 invasion of Iraq raised concerns among European leaders of a similar war with Iran. As a result, the governments of France, Germany, and the UK (the EU3) held talks with the Iranian administration.[2] Although dialogue continued, efforts to find a compromise failed, with proposals brought forward by the EU and the governments of Turkey and Russia being rejected by either the US or Iranian administrations. In 2006, the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) joined together in their diplomatic efforts with Iran regarding its nuclear programme. Little progress was made, however, and the discovery of underground nuclear facilities in Iran in 2009 raised the very real prospect of war, particularly after the Government of Israel threatened to bomb the location.[3]

The dispute remained unresolved until the Iranian people elected a moderate government in 2013. In September 2013, US President Barack Obama made the first contact between the leaders of Iran and the US since 1979. Two months later, the P5+1 and the Government of Iran reached an interim agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear programme, easing sanctions on Iran, and continuing dialogue.[4] A lengthy negotiation process showed signs of promise in April 2015, when a framework deal stipulating further limitations in exchange for sanctions-relief was announced.[5] A final round of talks between the P5+1 and the Government of Iran were held in Vienna in June 2015, continuing for 17 days and eventually culminating with the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on 14 July 2015.[6] The Plan represented a significant moment of reconciliation, easing tensions and building trust between the US and Iran, creating a framework for European states to engage with Iran, and ultimately reducing the likelihood of armed conflict. The presidency of Donald Trump threatened to undermine the process, however, the ‘strategic patience’ approach adopted by the Government of Iran with European persuasion has helped to maintain peace.[7]

[1] Seyed Hossein Mousavian & Mohammad Mehdi Mousavian. “Building on the Iran Nuclear Deal for International Peace and Security.” Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament, Vol. 1, No. 1. (2018) pp.169-172

[2] Ian Traynor. “Tehran agrees to nuclear freeze.” The Guardian. (2004) Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

[3] Ian Traynor, Julian Borger, & Ewen MacAskill. “Obama condemns Iran over secret nuclear plant.” The Guardian. (2009) Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

[4] Julian Borger & Saeed Kamali Dehghan. “Iran seals nuclear deal with west in return for sanctions relief.” The Guardian. (2013) Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

[5] Julian Borger & Paul Lewis. “Iran nuclear deal: negotiators announce ‘framework’ agreement.” The Guardian. (2015) Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

[6] Kelsey Davenport. “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action at a Glance.” Arms Control Association Fact Sheets & Briefs. (2020) Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

[7] Vali Nasr. “Iran and the US: The Long and Arduous Diplomatic Road.” RUSI Commentary. (2020) Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)