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The policy of "critical dialogue" : an analysis of European human rights policy towards Iran from 1992 to 1997

Struwe, M. V.

The policy of "critical dialogue" : an analysis of European human rights policy towards Iran from 1992 to 1997 Thumbnail


M. V. Struwe


This paper analyses the European Union’s policy of ‘critical dialogue’ with Iran from 1992 to 1997. Based on a ‘constructivist’ approach it is claimed that the ‘critical dialogue’ resulted from the increasing importance of human rights in the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. The ‘critical dialogue’ attempted to change Iranian behaviour and strengthen ‘moderate’ forces in Iran by keeping a dialogue on human rights, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the Iranian stance on the Arab-Israeli Peace Process, and Iran’s alleged support for terrorism. Although the ‘dialogue’ produced little tangible results, structural changes both in Iranian domestic and foreign policy give evidence that the ‘dialogue’ has been partly successful. The ‘critical dialogue’ was suspended in 1997 after a German court found the Iranian leadership guilty of or¬dering to assassinate four members of the Iranian-Kurdish opposition in Berlin. In contrast to the EU the United States pursued a policy of ‘containing’ Iran through economic sanctions. The policy differed from the European concept both in means and priorities. While the EU’s primary concern was Iran’s internal human rights conduct and its regional behaviour, U.S.-policy focused on alleged Iranian support for terrorism, its quest for weapons of mass destruction, and its opposition to the Peace Process. In 1995 the United States imposed a unilateral trade-embargo against Iran and in 1996 sanctions against companies investing in the Iranian oil-sector. The election of the ‘moderate’ President Khatami and the following ‘opening’ in Iran’s domestic and foreign policies led to a complete reassessment of European and American policies. The EU initiated a ‘comprehensive dialogue’ emphasising its previous concerns, while the U.S. government seeks a ‘genuine reconciliation’ with Iran, mainly to re-vitalise economic relations and to integrate Iran into the security-structure in the Gulf. Due to the inherent differences in their approaches, however, a com¬mon Euro-American policy towards Iran seems unlikely.

Working Paper Type Working Paper
Publication Date 1998-07
Deposit Date Mar 28, 2008
Publicly Available Date Apr 12, 2012
Series Title Durham Middle East Papers
Keywords European Union, Economic relations, Economic sanctions, Critical dialogue.
Public URL
Publisher URL


Published Working Paper (462 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© Matthias Struwe, Germany, matthias.struwe [a]

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