Iran and Seven-Month Extension of Nuclear Talks

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review

The breathtaking marathon of Iran's nuclear talks [with the P5+1 group] stopped in the Austrian capital, Vienna, but not as a finishing line before going back to the past situation. It is, however, more similar to a short rest taken before negotiations begin again, which this time will continue until July 1, 2015. Although Iranian officials held high expectations about this round of negotiations to reach a final deal, many people, especially experts in foreign policy knew that the possibility of achieving a comprehensive nuclear agreement was meager. The Iranian market, on the other hand, expected the signing of a comprehensive agreement would bring about a new opening to the market, thus putting an end to several months of anticipation. Of course, this did not happen and, therefore, the reaction shown to the result of Vienna talks and extension of negotiations by the Iranian market and commercial sector was somehow cold. However, when it comes to the public opinion, the reaction shown to Geneva talks’ finale was more positive as most people are now more confident about a few issues.

Firstly, it was proven that the mentality of senior Iranian officials as well as Iran's negotiators in nuclear talks is based on an accurate and rational logic. At present, people in Iran are more prone than any time before in the past years to believe that both reaching an agreement and possible failure of negotiations, will be victories for their country. When Iranians see that all senior officials of the Islamic Establishment support the nuclear negotiating team and, on the other hand, the team is comprised of totally professional and skillful diplomats, they will be no longer concerned about domestic political rivalries and their impact on the negotiations. Perhaps this degree of trust in Iran's nuclear negotiating team has only one parallel in contemporary history of the country and it was when Iran's popular prime minister of the 1950s, namely, Mohammad Mosaddeq, was defending the country’s drive to nationalize its oil industry at The Hague. This high level of trust is an immense asset for the administration of Dr. Hassan Rouhani, who is certainly conscious of how to safeguard this bounty.

Secondly, from now on, nobody will be able or willing to oppose the right of Iran to take advantage of peaceful nuclear energy and the country will have more latitude to conduct indigenous research and development in this field. Also, nobody can propose any other solution to this case except through negotiations and diplomacy. Let’s not forget that just two years ago, many research projects carried out by research institutes in the West were focused on the best ways as well as the risks of an aerial attack on Iran's nuclear facilities by the United States or Israel. On the other hand, Iran was doing its best to convince the world about its “inalienable right to take advantage of peaceful nuclear energy.” Remembering that situation will help us to better understand how profound and basic have been changes that have come about in conditions surrounding Iran's nuclear case following last year’s Geneva agreement. More importantly, they will show us how low the possibility of reversion of these conditions is. This is where we must pity [the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.

Thirdly, this round of negotiations once again proved how vast are the capacities of Iran for playing a role in international political games. Few issues can be mentioned in the past decades that had preoccupied the foreign ministers of the world’s most important countries for such a long period of time and so profoundly. The fact that the two negotiating parties have not reached any decisive conclusion following several days of negotiations is, per se, important, but what is more important is that both sides have reached the conclusion that they need to go on with their negotiations. This means that the two sides are now blessed with a high capacity which would finally enable them to reach an acceptable result. It will also help us to understand how difficult the negotiations have been for the Iranian side, whose negotiating team has stood up to four or even six delegations from six most important countries in the world. Those who oppose an agreement inside Iran believe that by extending the negotiations, the United States has practically frozen Iran's nuclear activities for seven more months without having given a remarkable concession to Iran with regard to removing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

On the other hand, those opposed to an agreement in the United States have also protested at the extension of the negotiations describing it as an opportunity which gives more “breathing space” to Iran's nuclear program. They are also trying to resort to any excuse in order to revive the atmosphere of Iranophobia which was common up to a few years ago. However, Iranian negotiators are well aware that the situation in the region has changed so drastically that with a small degree of awareness, they will be able to take good advantage of it in their own benefit. The threat of the ISIS; escalation of hostilities and tension between the West and Russia followed by imposition of Western sanctions on Russia; the unfortunate continuation of turmoil in Afghanistan; the conditions that have forced the governments of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to show their true colors and their real views more explicitly; the increasing differences among the US political elite as well as ridiculous remarks made by the Israeli officials who try to put renewed emphasis on Iran threat and determine the time ceiling that will take the Islamic Republic to build nuclear weapons, are all evidence to the fact that Iran's role and means of influence in the region cannot be compared to any other political player in the Middle East. It seems that the United States does not need to be repeatedly reminded of this reality. The best thing that could have happened was for Iran to get rid of onerous accusations leveled against it and ominous image projected of it during the past years and hold its head high. Now, without any reminder, the United States is well aware that it can no more set Iran aside from any kind of regional arrangements.

Fourthly, there is no doubt that Iran will be facing difficult conditions in the coming months especially with regard to economic issues. The sanctions have apparently not been lifted (though more cracks have appeared in their structure and new cracks will appear in the next seven months) and global oil prices have taken a major slump. However, this is an opportunity for the Iranian government to go on with its economic reform policies and smartly concentrate on those policies that are known as “resistance economy” inside the country, in order to tidy up the disorderly economic situation of Iran. Iranian people have lived under sanctions for many long years and are no stranger to this situation. During their revolution, Iranians shouted a famous slogan, which is still as relevant as it was at that time: independence, freedom, Islamic Republic. For any reasons, historical or intentional, the highest cost that Iranians have ever paid has been for the first part of this slogan. The feeling that after many months of negotiations, the Iranian negotiating team has made no deal over the country’s technological independence is a good reason for tolerating any hardship that may follow these talks. Of course, [Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif in its press conference with the European Union negotiator, Ms. [Catherine] Ashton, following the end of Vienna talks, and President Rouhani, who talked about the outlook of the negotiations on the same night, both appeared to be very confident about a final deal. This shows that from their viewpoint any hardship will be short-lived and brighter days characterized by increasing power of the Islamic Republic of Iran are very close.

Key Words: Iran, Vienna Nuclear Talks, P5+1, Extension, Hassan Rouhani, Negotiations and Diplomacy, Geneva Agreement, United States, US Political Elite, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Middle East, Russia, Sanctions, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Catherine Ashton, Golshanpazhooh

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*Photo Credit: Jame Jam Online, ISNA