Negotiating Nonproliferation: International Law and Delegation in the Iranian Nuclear Crisis


The Iranian nuclear crisis reflects international worries about Iran’s intentions in developing a nuclear energy program with potential military applications. This Article suggests that strengthening existing international institutions to more effectively provide ongoing verification of the civilian character of the Iranian program offers a diplomatic avenue of resolving this crisis. The nonproliferation regime includes safeguards to detect and deter the diversion of nuclear materials from civilian applications to weapons programs. The question of how to strengthen these safeguards to ensure that Iranian nuclear activities are verifiably proliferation resistant is at the heart of resolving the current crisis.

This Article shows that there is an identifiable compromise position that would address the concerns of the international community while enabling Iran to claim what it views as its right to nuclear energy. Yet despite this available avenue of compromise, missed negotiating opportunities have prolonged the crisis. Drawing on recent scholarship in the areas of negotiation theory and international delegations, this Article suggests an alternative approach to overcoming the conflict. By structuring negotiations around persuasive information, adopting an iterative and reciprocal negotiating structure, and strengthening the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (the IAEA), the parties could address many of the challenges that undermined previous rounds of negotiations. Further, a delegation to the IAEA of greater authority over implementing safeguards in Iran will set an important precedent for strengthening the verification and monitoring capacities of the organization, enabling it to facilitate resolution in the instant case and to better address any future crises involving potential proliferators.

About the Author

Aslı Ü. Bâli is an Assistant Professor at UCLA School of Law, and holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, M.Phil., Cambridge University, and a B.A.,Williams College.

By uclalaw