The level of distrust between the United States and Iran is so high that it obscures what would seem to be a reasonable way of working things out on the nuclear issue.
Both sides have their grievances, but neither side has a recognition of, or even a sound perception of, what the other side's are.
For the Americans, there have been hostile actions of the Iranians that have gone unrequited: the maddening seizure of American diplomats in Iran in 1979, followed by one of the most egregious non-feats of American arms -- the abortive hostage rescue mission of 1980, which still smarts even today. Then there are the terrorist attacks against American forces in Lebanon, carried out by Iran's proxy, the Hezbollah.
On the Iranian side there is the perception that all the wrongs the country has suffered since the Anglo-American overthrow of the democratically-based Mossadegh government in 1953 are attributable to the United States, notably the exiling of Imam Khomeini in the following decade, and the "imposed" war by Iraq against Iran from 1980 to 1988, seen as being masterminded by America, including the provision of chemical weapons. There is absolutely no evidence of this, although the American failure to condemn strongly these actions, which took place toward the end of the war and likely hastened its denouement, was palpable. The American "tilt" toward Iraq is amply described and documented in James Blight et al.'s Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979-1988 (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012).
Three experts writing in Le Monde (19 April 2012, p. 19) have put forward the essence of a solution to the Iranian nuclear impasse, of which the following are the main points:
- recognition of Iran's right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, under monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- the application by Iran of the Additional Protocol of 1993, which provides for additional information to, and intensified inspections by, the IAEA. Iran accepted this in 2003 but suspended its application in 2006
- a limitation of the level of enrichment of uranium by Iran
In return there would be a progressive lifting of the sanctions against Iran.
Though military action, with its unpredictable consequences, is to be avoided at all costs, there is very little chance under present circumstances of the above solution being realized. That is why a number of observers of the Iranian scene are advocating the choice of an intermediary, trusted by both sides, to attempt to break the current impasse.
Of course, if it all turns out to be a sham in the end, and Iran is proven to be seeking a nuclear weapon, at least the game would be exposed. It is wise to remember that dissimulation in the face of a superior enemy (known as takiya), is considered to be a virtue in Iran.