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“Cooperation and Negotiation” Versus “Pressure and Negotiation”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hassan Beheshtipour

Russia’s Initiative Should Succeed

Following relative freeze in Tehran’s ties with Moscow, a recent visit to Tehran by secretary of the Russian National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev and reciprocal visit of the Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Salehi, to Moscow have marked a restart for cordial relations between the two sides. Patrushev is a high-ranking official in Medvedev’s government. In addition to being secretary of the Russian National Security Council he is also very influential in the Russian power structure.

The most important goal of his visit to Tehran was offering Russia’s step by step plan which seeks a solution to Iran’s nuclear case. There were also other important issues on the agenda of bilateral negotiations such as the ongoing developments in the Middle East and North Africa. Russia is willing to play a decisive role in the Middle East in cooperation with Iran and be more influential in setting the course of future relations with the United States. It should not be ignored, however, that Russia should take an independent approach to Iran and other regional countries. If Russia simply complied with the United States’ policies it would risk general distrust of the Middle Eastern states. What is the step by step initiative and how can it become a success?

Reasons for Attention to Step by Step Plan:

1. The plan proves for the first time that Russia is no longer a follower of Western countries’ policies, but has come up with a new initiative.

2. The plan takes major reasons behind failure of past negotiations into account. During the past eight years, Iran has been pressured to give concessions without receiving anything in return. European countries even refrained from assuming any responsibility when they proposed their package of incentives to Iran.

3. The step by step plan puts an end to the policy of imposing pressures on Iran through tougher sanctions and replaces it with cooperation and dialogue.

Russia has proposed the United States to consider incentives for Iran as the country answers questions asked about its nuclear program. All aspects of the plan have not been made public thus far. However, the emphasis that it puts on offering incentives in return for answers that Iran gives to West’s questions, will provide a good ground for bilateral confidence building.

4. Specifying that easier questions will be posed at first followed by more difficult ones, shows that Russia is aware of the fact that every step is prelude to the next and it would be better to start with questions where on which agreement would be more possible.

5. Russia has acted as shock absorber in Iran’s nuclear case during the past eight years. That is, Moscow has consistently tried to cushion the impact of sanctions against Iran through political consultations. That policy was more pronounced when sanctions were supposed to have a more powerful impact on Iran’s economic relations with Russia. However, due to various reasons, Russia was not willing to come to loggerheads with the United States over Iran. In fact, it followed US policies conditionally and despite Iran’s expectations, even refrained from abstention when voting for Iran sanction resolutions. The step by step plan shows that Russia has reached a point when it is ready to stop being a simple follower of US policies in order to clear the way for more cooperation with Iran and play a more active international role. Let’s not forget that the Russian presidential election is forthcoming.

Therefore, it would be realistic to suppose that Patrushev’s Tehran visit followed by Salehi’s visit to Russia marks a turning point or a restart in Tehran-Moscow relations. One should, of course, wait and see when necessary conditions for the implementation of the plan will be provided.

Necessary Conditions for the Russian Plan Success:

1. Both sides (that is, Iran and the US) should show enough resolve to make negotiations a success.

2. Red lines respected by both sides should be recognized. Iran’s red line is continued enrichment of uranium in the country while the red line for the West and the United States is lack of any diversion in Iran’s nuclear program toward nuclear weapons.

3. The exact limits of questions to which Iran should provide answers have to be made known. A modality was drawn up under ElBaradei, the former director general of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which consisted of six basic questions to which Iran gave detailed answers. IAEA, however, said the answers were less than adequate. The United States then pressured IAEA to pose further questions on new charges against Iran without producing convincing evidence. Those questions were included in director general’s reports as “alleged studies” without any mention of the United States. Therefore, it should be made clear where and when such questions are going to stop. Otherwise, negotiations and questions should be repeated for many years and still be followed by more questions.

4. They should clarify the main goal of the plan. Will Iran’s case go back from the United Nations Security Council to IAEA's Board of Governors if Iran answered the questions? Will it be restored to ordinary state like nuclear cases of many other countries? Or will it continue to remain at the Security Council and be treated under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations as a threat to international peace and security?

By proposing the step by step plan, Russia is gradually distancing from the United States in order to get necessary trust from Iran and act like a mediator. On the other hand it has given up the past erroneous policy of simultaneous pressure and negotiations which it followed in the past as its futility has been proved in the past eight years. Charging the Iranian nation which seeks to achieve scientific self-sufficiency with posing a threat to international peace and security will obliterate grounds for confidence building. Therefore, if necessary conditions for that confidence building are provided under an atmosphere of mutual understanding, there would be hope for the Russian plan to cut the Gordian knot of the nuclear negotiations. Russia is well aware that without solving Iran’s nuclear issue, there would be no tangible improvement in Tehran’s relations with Moscow either on regional or international levels.

*Hassan Beheshtipour is Russian affairs analyst and member of the policy board of Press TV Website.

More By Hassan Beheshtipour:

*Russian Initiative for Final Settlement of Iran’s Nuclear Case: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Russian_Initiative_for_Final_Settlement_of_Iran%E2%80%99s_Nuclear_Case.htm

*SCO, A Springboard for Iran: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/SCO_A_Springboard_for_Iran.htm

*ran Should Not Ignore Central Asia, Caucasus: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran_Should_Not_Ignore_Central_Asia_Caucasus.htm

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