As Iran says it plans to upgrade its main nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz, and talks on its disputed nuclear program are set to resume this month with world powers, we can look to one brilliant example — mostly unknown and forgotten — that shows that Tehran can bend to international pressure.
The year was 1992, yet in certain ways it might as well have been 2013. Iran was a leading foreign policy issue for the West, which wanted to address its concerns through peaceful and diplomatic avenues. Germany had spearheaded an initiative called the “critical dialogue” and was determined to unravel diplomacy’s Gordian knot: to engage Tehran while also addressing issues such as Iran’s arms procurement, human rights record, support of international terrorism and opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Since the mid-1980s, Germany had led the West in negotiations with Tehran, the first of which was a series of talks between Iran and several crucial members of the European Union. As Iran’s biggest trading partner in the West, Germany was an outspoken supporter of engagement with the Islamic Republic. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Germany’s foreign secretary, became the first Western official to visit Tehran since the Iranian Revolution, and he was also the first Western official in 1987 to publicly condemn Iraq for attacking Iran.