Lausanne Agreement, A Turning Point in Iran's Soft Power

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review

The recent release of the text of an agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 group, also known as EU3+3, was the finishing line of marathon nuclear talks between Iran and the six countries. It was also the beginning of a long period of practice in mutual trust. This agreement has provided a structure and framework for the formulation of a final and comprehensive agreement between the two sides. Since all tangible measures will be taken following the approval of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), all interpretations of the text of the recent nuclear agreement, regardless of how different they are, will not be of any major consequence until the JCPOA is officially upheld by both sides. Nonetheless, given the text that has been read out by the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and in view of later remarks made by the US Secretary of State John Kerry, US President Barack Obama and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, the following points of worthy of mention here:

1. During any negotiations both sides give and take concessions. If those concessions were in line with the premeditated goals pursued by one of the two sides, that side could be called the winner. Throughout the course of the nuclear negotiations, Iran has constantly emphasized on its right to indigenous enrichment of uranium and, in return, has been ready for any cooperation in order to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear program. The opposite side, especially the West, has been asking for a maximum degree of transparency in Iran's nuclear program in order to make sure about absence of any diversion in Iran's nuclear activities. A glance at the content of the Lausanne statement will show that both sides have, more or less, met their goals and this is good evidence that attests to the power of diplomacy and professional diplomats in reaching a win-win agreement; an agreement whose realization was considered almost impossible by many critics of the nuclear talks on both sides.

2. From a moderate, not maximal, viewpoint, the advantages of the agreement for Iran have been totally acceptable. Iran has been able to maintain its nuclear program and can continue enrichment on its soil without shutting down any of its main nuclear facilities. The Islamic Republic is also allowed to produce nuclear isotopes it needs for use in medical and agricultural fields; can keep its heavy water facility; and will continue uranium enrichment at Natanz facility. At the same time, the reactor in the city of Arak will be streamlined and upgraded in order not to produce plutonium; the nuclear facility at Fordow will not be shut down and will only be converted into a center for nuclear and physics research and development; and Iran's nuclear activities will be recognized through a United Nations Security Council resolution. Meanwhile, some of anti-Iran sanctions will be removed all at once and some others will be lifted after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirms Iran's commitment to its obligations. Iran will continue research and development activities in the field of nuclear science, especially with regard to manufacturing advanced centrifuges inside the country, and finally, international cooperation will expand between Iran and other countries in the area of nuclear technology.

3. In return, Iran has accepted to not only reduce the volume of its enriched uranium, but also to reduce the level of enrichment to 3.67 percent. The country has also accepted to reduce the number of its centrifuges; convert the enrichment site at Fordow facility to a research and development site; stop using more advanced centrifuges; change the applications of its heavy water reactor in Arak; allow the IAEA to inspect Iranian sites other than conventional nuclear sites; and also implement the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on a temporary basis in order to strengthen the IAEA's supervision over its nuclear facilities.

4. During past years, most propaganda against Iran's nuclear program has been focused on the so-called “breakout” ability of Iran. Iran, for its part, insisted that it did not pursue production of nuclear weapons and, therefore, it did not matter how long it would take for the country to move from producing low-enriched uranium to production of weapons-grade uranium. The United States and Israel, on the contrary, kept underlining the importance of this issue. According to the new agreement, Iran has given clear and – to the extent that it has raised domestic criticism – broad promises to reemphasize that it has no intention to build nuclear weapons. From this viewpoint and since Iran has never really pursued production of nuclear weapons, the commitments Iran has undertaken for the verification of its promises will really look diminutive in comparison to concessions it has obtained.

5. As predicted before, the statement has been subject of different interpretations right from the time it was announced. In Iran, some people described it as an absolute victory for the country while others criticized the negotiators for having “sold their valuable nuclear card” at a very low price. On the other hand, inside the United States, some people argued that Washington has achieved all its goals through the agreement while others maintained that the agreement signifies Iran's smart win over the United States in this area. The most logical approach, however, is not to accept any of these interpretations until the deadline set for June 30 is due; a time by which the details of methods chosen to reduce or remove sanctions are made clear and, on the opposite, meticulous plans are made for transferring surplus nuclear material out of Iran. Without a doubt, the current criticism will be of great help to experts who will formulate the final text of a comprehensive agreement. The critical points raised now will show them on which issues they should be more precise and sensitive and, therefore, any criticism of the agreement should be deemed valuable. However, the important point is that a new equation has come into play according to which “Iran's right to industrial-scale enrichment and removal of sanctions have been accepted in return for more sweeping inspections of Iran's nuclear sites.” Up to a few years ago, the mere thought of conceding to such an equation vis-à-vis Iran was unimaginable for diplomats representing the P5+1 group.

In conclusion, one point should not be forgotten: The Lausanne agreement will create a big crack in psychological structure of sanctions while undermining the Iranophobia project, which had apparently become a political vogue for some countries during the past decade. Before the nuclear agreement, Iran was a prosperous and stable power opposed to radical and terrorist groups in the Middle East, which most of the time played its smart game by relying on its own soft power resources in addition to its influence on sensitive parts of the Middle East. The propaganda campaign by Israel on top of strange measures taken by Saudi Arabia and some other Persian Gulf countries not only failed to push Iran into a shaky position, but further strengthened Iran's regional standing. Now, and following proclamation of the Lausanne agreement, Iran's smart power has been reinvigorated. If the West took a fairer approach to Iran's power, it would be able to see that Iran's role in the region is much more logical and beneficial than the measures and policies taken by Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt. In doing this, Iran has been also more instrumental in restoring stability to the region, eliminating Takfiri terrorists and maintaining the peace and tranquility which is requisite for secure flow of energy through the Middle East.

Key Words: Lausanne Agreement, Iran's Soft Power, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Federica Mogherini, Mohammad Javad Zarif, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), P5+1, Iranophobia, Iran's Regional Standing, Middle East, Golshanpazhooh

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*Photo Credit: Vox

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