Iran and Future Approach to Nuclear Negotiations

Friday, July 27, 2012

Interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini
Former Iranian Ambassador to Armenia & Expert on Strategic Issues

Mohammad Farhad Koleini is a senior expert of strategic issues and Iran's former ambassador to Armenia. In an interview with ISNA news agency he answered questions about the latest round of Iran's nuclear talks with the P5+1 group – which includes the United States, the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia. In the first question he was asked, “Following a recent meeting between deputies of the two sides’ top nuclear negotiators, Ali Baqeri and Helga Schmid, they agreed that top negotiators, Saeed Jalili and Catherine Ashton, should have a phone contact. Will this mean that a new round of high-level talks between Iran and the P5+1 is expected?” Answering the question, the expert said what was proposed by the P5+1 during Baghdad negotiations was different from the package that had been offered in Istanbul 2 talks in Turkey. Iran was critical of the Baghdad package because it represented an effort by the P5+1 to impose its views on the Iranian side through step by step and one-sided bargaining. He added that in Moscow, both sides reached the conclusion that further talks should continue through negotiations and discussions between experts from Iran and the P5+1. “Therefore, given the existing conditions, we must see whether Iran and the P5+1 have found new grounds for agreement or not.”

Koleini then pointed to a statement by Michael Mann, the spokesperson for the P5+1’s chief negotiator, Catherine Ashton, following a meeting in Istanbul between Schmid and Baqeri. The expert noted that the remarks of Ashton’s spokesman were conservative and indicated that the group needed to first consider Schmid’s report to Ashton and other member states of the P5+1 in order to enter a new phase of decision-making and deliberation.

Asked about possibility of holding a new round of talks between Tehran and the P5+1, the senior analyst noted that in view of the former proposals offered by the P5+1 and their insistence on them despite major drawbacks in those proposals, “we must see whether they have reached a new phase of decision-making or not. We must wait to make sure and avoid of hasty judgment.”

He pointed out that the P5+1 seems to have reached the conclusion that the proposals it offered in Baghdad talks have not been consequential. “The process envisaged by that package was incomplete and imbalanced and it was natural for the Iranian side to criticize the P5+1’s package of proposals.” Therefore, he added, if the P5+1 succeeded to come up with new proposals, especially after expert talks are conducted on technical, legal, and political issues between the two sides, it would raise hope. “However, we must wait and see what happens.”

The next question was “What extent of possible corrections and changes in the P5+1’s package of proposals will be able to convince Iran to accept it considering that the P5+1’s proposals included total suspension of 20-percent uranium enrichment, shutdown of the nuclear site in Fordow, and that Iran should take all its stock of 20-percent enriched uranium out of that country?” The expert stated that it is important to see whether Iran and the P5+1 will be able to achieve an agreement through talks, or further negotiations will continue within the framework set by the West. Some analysts, he added, believe that the West is actually using negotiations as a means of deterrence to contain Iran's nuclear achievements.

Koleini noted that some analysts maintain that there is no problem with negotiations going on indefinitely because they should not be perceived as a hasty process to lead to immediate results. They say that the West, especially the United States, will be using negotiations as a tool until the US presidential polls are over next spring. Then they will enter a new stage of decision-making on Iran's nuclear issue. Of course, this is a repetitive scenario which is pursued by Europe and the West and had been already carried out during presidential term of Iran's former president, Seyed Mohammad Khatami.

The expert also stated that Tehran is well aware of such negotiating methods. These methods, he noted, have apparently lost their efficiency and cannot be used to find a solution to major issues which exist between Iran and the P5+1. Therefore, any judgment about behind-the-scenes aspects of negotiations should be given realistically. We must wait and see whether management of negotiations and quality of proposals can provide an opportunity for agreement on both sides.

Asked about his opinion on the current situation of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, Koleini stated that he sees no void in talks. “I think under current circumstances, the quality of bargaining is important because it may delay achievement of a possible agreement.”

The next question was about US unilateral sanctions against Iran's oil and banking sectors. “There is a viewpoint which believes that the United States is waiting to see the results of its unilateral sanctions against Iran's oil and banking sectors before entering negotiations with Tehran within framework of the P5+1. What is your opinion?” The analyst stated that to head off the untoward effects of sanctions, Iranian ministries should strengthen their “anti-sanctions guard.” “Of course, I don’t know to what extent they have already done that.”

Koleini added that the West seeks to increase sanctions against Iran because it believes that it can use sanctions as a bargaining chip and influence the positions of the Iranian side. “The West is still pursuing this viewpoint. The unilateral sanctions, however, have not been simply imposed in order to influence Iran's nuclear activities, but they are also aimed at make Iran change its views and reduce its capacities in various fields.

Koleini noted that the United States is trying to inflict a major shock on Iran through unilateral sanctions and, therefore, it reckons a lot on the impact of those sanctions on political, economic, and social conditions in Iran.

The expert was then asked if the forthcoming US presidential election during the current year and Iran's presidential polls next year would provide conditions to allow for the United States to further escalate unilateral sanctions against Iran. He said that rivalries, hostilities and interactions are going on in various fields and among different political currents in the modern world. “To counter such threats, a country should look at the quality of its deterrence capacities in the face of its major rivals and opponents. Anyway, problems caused for Iran's banking system have had many untoward effects on the Iranian citizens, even those living abroad.

“However, the pressure which is exerted by the West on Iran's energy sector and financial market will cause Iran to take a new strategic about-face which will be detrimental to the West in the long run. The West is increasing its distance with Iran, as a balancing power in the region, rapidly as a result of adopting wrong policies towards Tehran.

Pointing to Iran's geopolitical and geostrategic capabilities, Koleini said pressures caused by sanctions will not turn Iran into a geopolitically isolated country. “Of course, the West is also trying to change Iran's geostrategic capacities in the region.” For example, he added, the West is trying to disturb Iran's energy relations with West Asia, prevent Iran from using its transit potentials, reduce Iran's capacity as a regional economic and trade hub, and exclude the country from Nabucco pipeline project.

“These efforts will prevent Europe from diversifying its energy supply options in the future despite the willingness of the European countries to use diverse energy supply routes. As a result, such policies will increase divergence among the member states of the European Union.”

Referring to the West’s effort to cripple Iran's geopolitical structure, Koleini stated that certain efforts were made within the US National Security Council in this regard during 2007-2008 period, which focused on such issues as using Russia against Iran, excluding Syria from Iran's geopolitical equations, bolstering Saudi Arabia’s role in energy market to change the balance against Iran in international oil markets, and also to find alternatives to Iran in other fields of international interest.

The analyst stated that such efforts are, in fact, pursued and imposed on the US security system by certain foreign lobbies. “In coordination with the famous Zionist lobby, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), they have managed to turn this into the main scenario of the United States’ foreign policy. As a result, he concluded, the US security system has been actually duped by a hidden plan concocted by the secret network of lobbyist groups.

Key Words: Nuclear Negotiations, Iran-P5+1, West Negotiating Methods, US Unilateral Sanctions, Iran's Energy Sector and Financial Market, Koleini 

Source: ISNA News Agency
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Mohammad Farhad Koleini:

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*West’s Confusion in Interaction with Iran:

*Review of Washington–Tel Aviv Differences on Managing Schedule of Nuclear Talks with Iran:

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