Category: Nuclear Energy

Iran’s in the Mood to Negotiate on its Nuclear Program

HASHEM PESARAN, professor of economics, USC Dornsife.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Guardian on Sept. 17.

It is well documented that economic sanctions on their own have not generally been effective in achieving their political aims, particularly when they are imposed against non-democratic regimes. Sanctions have their greatest impact in the short term, as their effects tend to be mitigated in the longer term by structural economic and political adjustments. Overall, effective sanctions have been short-lived, whilst ineffective ones have lasted a long time.

North Korea: Separating Truth From Fiction

DAVID KANG, professor of international relations, Dornsife College, and VICTOR CHA, senior advisor for Asia and Korea chair at Center for Strategic and International Studies.

This op-ed originally appeared at Foreign Policy on March 25.

“North Korea’s not that dangerous.”

Wrong. There is no threat of war on the Korean peninsula because the United States and South Korea have deterred the regime for over six decades, or so the thinking goes. And the occasional provocation from Pyongyang — full of sound and fury — usually ends with it blowing up in its face, signifying nothing. So why worry? Two reasons. First, North Korea has a penchant for testing new South Korean presidents. A new one was just inaugurated in February, and since 1992, the North has welcomed these five new leaders by disturbing the peace. Whether in the form of missile launches, submarine incursions, or naval clashes, these North Korean provocations were met by each newly elected South Korean president with patience rather than pique.

The Role of Sacred Values in the Iran Nuclear Standoff

MORTEZA DEHGHANI, research assistant professor, USC’s Institute of Creative Technologies, and SONYA SACHDEVA, postdoctoral fellow in psychology, Northwestern University.

This op-ed originally appeared at Aljazeera.

Beneath the intensifying crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme is a startling disconnect between what the two sides perceive to be the target of the West’s sanctions. To the US and its allies, the sanctions aim to cripple the Iranian economy to the point that Iran’s government will realise the error of developing nuclear weapons.

To Iranians, however, the sanctions represent an encroachment on their country’s sovereignty over an issue – nuclear energy – they believe goes to the core of national identity. This view has deep historical resonance because of previous foreign efforts to undermine the nation’s sovereignty – the Western-sponsored coup of a democratically elected government in 1953 – and to interrupt scientific advancement – Iran’s quest for nuclear technology dates to the shah. For these Iranians, the country’s nuclear programme has become a “sacred value”.

What is a “sacred value”? We all intuitively feel that there are certain things and values in our lives – the right to vote, the graves of our ancestors – that we would never give up or compromise no matter how tempting the reward or menacing the threat. What’s more, to even be asked to consider a tradeoff on such matters would be an outrage.

‘Sacred values’

Sacred values play significant roles in many socio-cultural conflicts. The Israeli-Palestinian divide is a prominent example. The problem is that sacred values are beyond the reach of traditional diplomacy, which assumes rational actors weighing the costs and benefits of taking a position. Who would bargain away the sacred? But in the case of Iran’s nuclear programme, diplomacy has a chance of succeeding in upcoming talks because Iranians may consider the programme sacred only up to a point.

In 2010, we surveyed Iranian attitudes toward their country’s nuclear programme. The 2,000 participants were young (average age 30), college graduates and mostly male, a sample highly representative of the population as a whole except for the predominance of males.

We presented one group (about 1,400 Iranians) with three different tradeoff scenarios: Would they give up the nuclear energy programme in exchange for material compensation from the United Nations, under the threat of sanctions or in the absence of external pressure?