The Iran Deal and the Lessons of Peacebuilding

Apr 06, 2015

If we don't stand up for diplomacy, our children and grandchildren will be marching away to the drumbeats of war.

The Iran nuclear framework is already a diplomatic achievement for many reasons. First, Iran and six world powers actually agreed to the outlines of a plan many thought was beyond reach. This is an initial step towards a more comprehensive agreement that would significantly limit Iran’s ability to make nuclear weapons.

Second, the details cover many different elements of the conflict situation. Iran reduces enrichment capacity by significantly reducing the number of operating centrifuges and keeping only older models. Iran gives up 97% of enriched uranium and ships out all spent nuclear fuel. Iran keeps one secure enrichment facility and another is converted to research. Together, these agreements mean Iran’s “break out” time to build a nuclear weapon is extended from the current 2-3 months to a full year.

Third, relief on sanctions depends on inspections. The details of inspection, monitoring and transparency -- designed by non-proliferation experts -- are surprisingly stringent. Actions, conditions, verification and timelines fit together.

Stepping back, the Iran deal has lessons for conflict resolution in other domains. The most important lesson is the distinction between peacebuilding and peacemaking.

Peacebuilding is active. It is a gang truce or a war zone ceasefire or starting a peer mediation program in a middle school. Peacebuilding is a set of activities with the goal of reducing and preventing conflict and violence. The Iran peace talks are first of all a set of discussions intended to reduce the reality or potential for conflict and violence.

The framework demonstrates another characteristic of peacebuilding: complex problems require solutions sets. Reducing social conflict requires multiple strategies that touch different components of the conflict situation. I use the term “solution sets” to describe the range of actions needed to reduce and prevent violence. And yes, timelines and deadlines do help participants push towards agreement. Activities, solution sets and timelines are the visible characteristics of peacebuilding efforts.

Peacemaking is different. Peacemaking is personal. It’s a change of mind, a new awareness, or an individual decision to do things differently. Almost always, peacemaking is the new understanding that flows when we see the world through the eyes of another. Those personal insights only happen in face-to-face dialog.

I believe in the power of face-to-face dialog. I believe we can turn anger and hatred to solutions. I believe we need to be strong to build peace. And I believe diplomacy takes courage and commitment. Yes, there is more work to do on the Iran deal. Yes, all sides went home and spun the results in different ways for different homegrown audiences. And yes, hardliners on all sides – and from other nations – will work to tear the agreement apart.

So it is up to us We the People to stand up for diplomacy and negotiation instead of war. The drumbeats of war are loud and strong; peacebuilders need to be as loud and as strong and as determined.

I ask all my friends and supporters – and my son’s friends and supporters -- to use social media (telephones work too) to contact your senators and congressional representatives and tell them to support the Iran framework and wait for the detailed plan with hopefulness and good will.

If we don't stand up for diplomacy, our children and grandchildren will be marching away to the drumbeats of war.

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