Last weekend's meeting in Geneva between Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and other major world powers included the third-ranking State Department official, marking a potentially important shift in the United States' historically isolationist strategy toward Iran following its 1979 revolution.  
 
Diplomats from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, Russia and the United States gathered to discuss with the Iranian negotiator an incentive-laced package that, if accepted by Iran, could lead to a suspension of the country's uranium enrichment program.  
 
Etel Solingen, UC Irvine political science professor and author of Nuclear Logics, says much of the outcome of this very initial step depends upon whether the internal power dynamic in Iran is shifting toward those who favor increased trade, modernization of the oil and gas industry, foreign investment, and a "normal exchange with the rest of the world, particularly the U.S."  
 
"Historically, leaders and regimes which favor nuclear weapons also resist integration into the global political economy," she says, examples of which have included, among others, North Korea, Iraq and Libya. "By contrast, those receptive to global integration perceive little benefit from a policy of nuclear assertion or ambiguity, both for domestic and international reasons."  
 
With a newly awarded $50,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation, Solingen is leading a study that will examine why, when and how negative as well as positive inducements - such as the package currently being considered by Iran - have been and are likely to be effective in preventing nuclear proliferation.  
 
"Much of the academic and policy analysis has addressed sanctions," she says. Her study will explore the effectiveness and inadequacies of a broad range of policies to include sanctions as well as positive incentives aimed at keeping nuclear aspirants at bay.  
 
"There is concern in the nonproliferation community with the possibility of other countries in the Middle East responding to Iran's nuclear program with one of their own," she says. By studying which actions have been most successful in discouraging nuclear development within other nations, she hopes to contribute to further successful nonproliferation policy.  
 
Some preliminary results of Solingen's study will be released in 2009 in advance of the crucial 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Meanwhile, she says the next two weeks are critical, referring to the timetable Iran has been given to respond to a "freeze-for-freeze" proposal offered by the six powers. According to the proposal, further UN sanctions against Iran would be suspended if the country freezes its uranium enrichment program. If accepted, formal negotiations on the final agreement would begin within six weeks. 

 

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