Point Paper

Night Note

From:  Foreign Secretary

To: Prime Minister Tony Blair


I am pleased with the results from Saturday’s negotiations despite my sadness over today’s bombings in Jordan.  The agreement reached has ostensibly bought us time.  What the Iranians are doing behind the scenes will continue to be questionable, but at least we have got them back to the table.  The four most important messages I take from this meeting are the following.  Focus on the consistency of the UK’s message.  Don’t allow derailment from that message for any reason.  Plan on a minimum ten-year timeline to resolve this issue.  Deal with the short-term problems as they arise, but focus on the long-term goal. 


1.   Support NPT/IAEA.  Strengthen, adapt, and bolster the NPT.  Continue to support the IAEA.  Don’t allow the issue to be framed as the West versus Iran.  Get as many institutions and nations involved as possible.

2.   Provide a consistent public message. Confidence building and no nuclear weapons makes Iran a robust trading partner, and keeps the American military out of the Persian Gulf.  Stick to the Paris Agreement and the Long-Term-Agreement. Half the battle here is changing the attitudes of the Iranian public, which requires crafting a public diplomacy campaign, selling the same, repetitive message.  Phrase everything we say in terms of the regime versus the people i.e. everything we have in common with the people, and everything we don’t have in common with the regime.  Make sure Iranian speakers are drafting all our statements. 

3.   Provide consistent private messages.  It is equally important to be clear about our private messages. 

Message to Iran:

The UK cooperates with those who it considers allies.  We would like to see Iran become an ally.  That being said, this issue concerns Iran – not NAM.  This is about the unique case of 18-years of non-compliance, followed by several rounds of false statements by Iran brought to light only through robust inspection.  Iran failed in its obligations under the NPT, and now it has to rebuild confidence with the international community.  

Iran needs to revisit their analysis of the security situation.  No nuclear power would use a nuclear weapon against a non-nuclear power.  International condemnation would be too great. The Iranians have not thought through the results of successfully acquiring nuclear weapons.  Iran will gain more problems than it solves by going nuclear, including the responsibility for keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. 

If worse comes to worse, the West will engage in a second nuclear arms race, and devastate the Iranian economy. Iran has a simple choice: they can either have the outside world pay for their development, or they can engage in an arms race they can not win. The first option provides them with enough economic strength to ultimately balance the West, if that is their aim.  The second choice would set their country back generations.  The West is too technologically advanced to successfully compete with, too far ahead economically, and has considerable experience winning an arms race.  We can successfully limit how many weapons Iran can acquire.  Nuclear weapons cost too much money to make, and too much money to maintain.  There is a powerful defense lobby that will be happy to support an arms race.  Bottom line, the international community is not going to pay for enrichment, but they will pay for the fuel-cycle to be broken.

Message to the United States:

The U.S. is being hurt by not having a unified message. We would like the U.S. to come to some internal consensus regarding this issue.  Without it, negotiation becomes difficult for the EU.

What the U.S. may see as appeasement, can also be viewed as constraints on behavior.  Every time we develop a place for engagement with Iran, we have the opportunity to restrain their behavior more in line with international norms.

Message to other nations:

A small number of nuclear facilities are only good for one thing – making nuclear weapons.  A large number is needed to make energy production economically viable.  Iran’s technological footprint as publicly outlined indicates plans for nuclear weapons, not nuclear power.

4.   Maintain unified strength as negotiators. Maintain a unified front among the EU.

5.   Confront the energy issue.  We have simply got to start taking the long-term energy situation seriously. Being dependent on oil from an unstable region will continue to cloud our judgment.  Whoever develops a viable alternative to fossil fuels would wield considerable power, and with luck the UK laboratories could provide that alternative.

6.   Respond rather than react.  The timeframe available to make good decisions is usually short, as was exhibited when our intelligence on the Embassy bombing this past Saturday was so predictably incongruous.  We should continuously plan for how to respond to contingencies before they occur.

7.   Manage relationship with U.S.  The U.S. supported our negotiations in return for a promise that we would not accept Iranian maintenance of its own fuel-cycle.  We have to encourage patience to the Americans, while ensuring that we continue to block an internal fuel-cycle.

8.   Face saving list.  We should maintain a list of face saving measures EU negotiators can utilize which allow Iran to “win”.  This list might include the UK pulling back all heavy weaponry from the Iraq-Iran border, and making a promise of no permanent military basing in Iraq.

9.   Funding.  The UK should begin to explore who will pay for the expense of any proposed solutions, such as the fuel bank, sufficient monitoring equipment, and additional inspectors.

10. Pressure the leadership.  There has got to be a permanent, persistent campaign to contain the worst tendencies of this regime.  The majority of Iranians do not want to be isolated the way that North Korea is.  Targeted sanctions, such as banning international travel and freezing assets, could provide internal pressure.

11. Encourage commercial involvement.  Right now Russia and China are too narrowly focused on trying to avoid conflict with the Iranians.  With more commercial involvement in Iran, and therefore more to lose, they are bound to take greater ownership in the problem.  The downside is, if they take more ownership, we give up some control.  The upside is, if they take more ownership, the burden of problem solving becomes more evenly distributed.

12. Buy time.  The UK should not give up looking for openings to encourage involvement from other nations.  Members to the Six-Party Talks weren’t ready to engage in that process until they saw that it was in their best interest to do so.

13. Reshape the conversation.  We must find ways for Iran to get out of the way of its own rhetoric.  Perhaps the conversation can slowly be reshaped to attack certain aspects of perceived Western behavior, rather than blanket condemnation of the West.

14. Stay engaged.  The UK is strong enough to absorb the harmless abuse, but must respond to actual tests of power in kind.  We must constantly walk the line between overreaction, and signaling weakness.

15. Emergency response preparation.  Unfortunately, London may provide an easier target for a suitcase bomb than the States.  We should continue to prepare ourselves psychologically and physically for a worst-case scenario.  It is possible that in 18 years of non-compliance Iran “lost” nuclear material along the way, which could be used against us.

Watch Out For

I anticipate a great deal of resistance from Iran as they struggle with internal domestic concerns.  Both the Israelis and the Americans may be more confrontational than the EU would like.  The best way to mitigate these risks is to lead by our example of prudence and rationality.  Given that this is in line with our nations general approach, I anticipate no serious disagreement from within the UK government.

Perhaps the more troubling issue is trying to predict what precedence we are setting with our actions.  This is often difficult to predict, and it concerns me that if we give up to much, or too little, we are setting the stage for every nation that pursues a nuclear program. The developing world is looking to nuclear power as a way towards progress, and we provide them with no better alternatives.  Mitigation must rely on forethought, in so far as we are able.

All in all, I fall back on platitudes, which are no less true for having become hackneyed.  Great Britain must exhibit leadership.  Why us, you ask, and what exactly do I mean?  Us because there is no other choice at the moment.  Whoever pressures Iran needs to be powerful enough to be effective.  In this case, there is some truth to the idea that Iran will only respect and respond to force.  At the same time, that power has to mirror back to them a positive image of their future in the global order.  Whoever engages them has to be capable of a patient, long-term “critical engagement” approach.  Finally, it has to be someone who can attempt to manage the United States.

Who does that leave?  Russia and China are too mired in their domestic issues to be terribly useful.  France and Germany are equal partners with us, but are somewhat estranged from the United States.  England is uniquely situated – strong enough to provide credible threat in cultures that are prone to respect strength, more attached to America than other developed nations, but with far fewer global responsibilities than the US has acquired.

I have some hope that Iran can be brought into the global community in a reasonable time frame.  However, if Iran is within 10-years of developing both the weapons and missile capability to reach British shores, we need to step up the pace of our efforts.  It is unacceptable to have a theocracy within nuclear striking distance of our nation.

I look forward to being able to consult with you further on this matter.  I remain, Sir, your obedient servant.



Secretary Croft