The visual politics of the 2015 Iran deal: narrative, image and verification

Alister Miskimmon, Ben O'Loughlin

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This article explores the role of visuality and narrative in the forging of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the United Nations Security Council P5+1. We
advance strategic narrative theory by explaining how narrative alignment between longstanding antagonists can occur through protagonists’ coordination of communication – a methodology of orchestration – across public and private spaces of diplomacy. Analysis of news, policy and social media materials as well as interviews with protagonists allows us to trace the gestures and performances through which actors sought to reinforce or overcome an identity narrative of Iran as untrustworthy and dangerous. We draw on Foucault’s concept of alethurgy to show how verification mechanisms were constructed to ensure Iran’s actions (if not its intentions) could be brought into public view. US and Iranian leaders’ political will was significant, and sanctions and sabotage exerted considerable pressure on Iran. This article demonstrates how communication can enable alignment and peace-making rather than confusion and conflict in world affairs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778-798
Number of pages21
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Issue number5
Early online date11 Sept 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Sept 2020


  • Iran
  • Narrative
  • Visuality
  • Nuclear disarmament
  • Identity
  • Diplomacy
  • Negotiation
  • Strategic communication

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