Difficult Path to a Nuclear Agreement

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hassan Vazini

The latest round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group – including the US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany – has depicted a new outlook for Iran’s nuclear negotiations. Although no statement was issued following negotiations in Baghdad, and perhaps they fell short of early expectations in this regard, they cannot be considered a failure because an agreement reached by two sides to continue negotiations in Russia’s capital city, Moscow, proves that both of them are serious, as well as hopeful, about negotiations while being aware of the hard path ahead to reach a nuclear agreement.

Cautious remarks made by both sides’ representatives after negotiations in Baghdad prove that this round of talks has been more comprehensive and more focused on technical details. Therefore, any assessment and final opinion on it should be postponed until well after necessary studies are carried out. The fact that both Iranian and the Western negotiators offered separate packages of proposals proves that both sides have gotten closer to the quality and official form of strategic negotiations. Perhaps, it would not be against the realities to say that negotiations were carried out in a twilight, which means that there are hopes about relative light and agreement after the current darkness is dispelled. This comes from the fact that both sides had gone to Baghdad with clear-cut agendas as well as carrying well-defined packages of proposals. However, there are clear reasons to prove that a comprehensive agreement cannot be achieved in short term. This case is currently one of the most complicated issues on international agenda. Therefore, to come up with a model of agreement between the two sides, more general considerations should be taken into consideration. Tactics that are used to achieve an agreement are also complicated both in terms of publicity efforts and operational process and have taken up a considerable part of negotiations between Iran and the West. Now, it seems that there are certain grounds based on which both sides are willing to achieve an agreement.

Therefore, one may say that holding three intense sessions in Baghdad in addition to more bilateral talks on the sidelines followed by an agreement to continue negotiations in Moscow, are all good indications that both sides are trying to make something come out of nuclear talks. Although this willingness to make negotiations successful is per se promising, it should be noted that Iran’s nuclear case has not evolved into an international concern so easily as to be resolved with such speed.

The ongoing economic crisis in Europe and concerns about possible oil price hike and its economic consequences in addition to the approaching US presidential polls are among major issues which have had a positive impact on the negotiations. However, there are some external variables that have been trying to make achievement of an agreement difficult by obstructing the process of negotiations.

The first step toward an agreement is mutual trust between negotiating parties (willingness to fulfill their duties and respecting each other rights), determining a suitable ground for dispute settlement (the Non-Proliferation Treaty) and agreement on giving mutual concessions (such as removing sanctions, accepting the Additional Protocol and agreement on the level of uranium enrichment as well as other political, legal and economic issues). General agreement was reached over the first two parts (confidence building and dispute settlement) in Istanbul talks. However, the negotiating sides failed to agree on mutual measures, including steps which should be taken by each of the two sides, in Baghdad. The main reason for the failure was West’s demands which are still imbalanced and do not take Iran’s realities and national interests into account. Their proposed package still considers Iran’s nuclear program a red line while a comprehensive approach is necessary for reaching an agreement. In other words, resolution of this dispute totally depends on the West which should include a host of economic, political, legal and regional issues as well as Iran’s discontent with the past behavior of the West in its package. The two last rounds of negotiations in Istanbul and Baghdad show that the West is more attentive to these issues than before. It seems that in view of both sides’ willingness, getting to the boiling point of negotiations in Moscow is by no means out of reach and future talks in Russia can be the beginning of the end of Iran’s nuclear case. As said before, in addition to a bilateral willingness or even strategy for peaceful resolution of the nuclear case, setting the rules of the agreement is the most important Gordian knot which was not broken in Baghdad. Russia, on the other hand is a member of the P5+1 which also has close ties to Iran and has already come up with the step-by-step initiative. Therefore, they are in a good position to convince the West to take the first practical step while keeping its expectations of Iran within a rational range in order to resolve this international dispute. Since Russians will be hosting the next round of negotiations, they are now offered with a historical opportunity to play a decisive role in resolving Iran’s nuclear case.

Key Words: Nuclear Agreement, Negotiations in Baghdad, Moscow, Packages of Proposals, Step-by-Step Initiative, Vazini

Source: Tehran Emrooz Daily
Translated By: Iran Review

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