Necessity of Playing with China-Russia Ball in Iran's Court

Friday, February 24, 2012

Interview with Hassan Beheshtipour
Expert on Russia and Central Asia Affairs

Will the current standoff over Iran's nuclear case finally end? Under conditions when the West is imposing the most severe economic sanctions against Iran using the country’s peaceful nuclear program as excuse, Iranian statesmen are unveiling new breakthroughs in the area of peaceful nuclear technology. Before imposition of new UN sanctions as well as unilateral sanctions by the United States and the European Union against Iran, many Iran analysts had warned that the country’s nuclear program cannot be stopped with sanctions alone. Now, the sanctions game is proceeding in line with those warnings. The recent letter sent by Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator to European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, clearly proved that the Iranians are ready for talks. Of course, Iran's proposal was offered in the light of the country’s new advances in producing nuclear fuel rod to feed Tehran Nuclear Reactor. Iranian Diplomacy has discussed this issue in the following interview with Hassan Beheshtipour, an expert on Russia and Central Asia Affairs .

Q: Considering Mr. Jalili’s recent letter to Ms. Ashton, who represents EU and US, about Iran's readiness to resume negotiations, to what extent, do you think that conditions are ready for a new round of talks and are there any hopes about future outlook of nuclear talks?

A: I think that in a rational assessment, one must admit that proclamation of Iran's nuclear progress is a sign of total failure of the West’s pressure and negotiation policy. The United States and members of Group 5+1, especially Germany, UK, and France, followed a policy of escalating sanctions against Iran after negotiations in Istanbul and thought that Iran will give in to mounting pressure of sanctions and will go back to negotiating table. That strategy has practically failed and Western countries have not gained anything through it. During the past week, Iran succeeded in feeding domestically made nuclear fuel rods into Tehran Research Reactor. Western countries believed that it would be impossible for Tehran to produce fuel rods by itself. The West had been keeping Iran waiting since May 2010, to receive nuclear fuel through an international tender whose winners were Russia and France. Russia was supposed to supply the fuel with France expected to provide the fuel rods to Iran. Those arrangements were never realized and fuel delivery was frequently postponed for various reasons and excuses. Therefore, the practical result of sanctions policy was persuading Iran to continue its nuclear activities and finally produce fuel rods for Tehran Nuclear Reactor.

Q: It seems, as you said, that Iran has broken many new grounds in the area of nuclear technology and those advances will probably cause the country to have the upper hand in any possible negotiations. Concurrent with this issue, however, charges have been leveled against Iran at international level. To what extent, do you think such charges may influence the process of negotiations?

A: Such incriminations are along the same lines of pressure and negotiation policy. They want to continue exerting pressure to bring Iran back to negotiations. Iran, on the other hand, puts the highest emphasis on a strategy of cooperation and negotiations. Mr. Jalili’s letter has clearly noted that Iran pursues negotiations, but it is only ready to start talks within framework of a general package which will care for Iran's general policies and ensure step-by-step progress. It seems that he has been alluding to Russia’s step-by-step initiative. That is, Iran expects the West to take positive measures in parallel to Tehran’s confidence-building steps. Iran does not want continuation of the past situation in which its confidence–building measures were not met with reciprocal measures by the West.

Q: You pointed to Russia’s step-by-step plan. Just recently and concurrent with deployment of Russian S-400 missiles along the southern border of Russia near the Caspian Sea, the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff noted that Iran is like an old wound which should be healed by next summer. To what extent, do you think Iran can trust [Russian foreign minister, Sergei] Lavrov’s plan and Moscow’s position on this issue?

A: Trust is not an issue here. In politics, trust is construed according to countries’ behaviors and will change in relation to conditions of time and place. In politics, every country acts in accordance with its own national interests and they will do anything required to meet those interests. We must note that just in the same way that Iran moves along the lines of its national interests, Russia also acts according to its own national interests. Therefore, Iran should find common interests with Russia in order for both countries to proceed on the basis of those interests.

For instance, why Russia is offering its all-out support for Syria? It is because of Russia’s interests in the Middle East which require Russia to maintain its foothold in Syria. Otherwise, Moscow feels no sympathy for the Syrian President Bashar Assad and his government. It is concerned about its own national interests and seeks to meet them.

Q: Do you think that Iran also fits within framework of those interests?

A: Yes. Iran should bolster bilateral cooperation with Russia and define its national interests in such a way as to create common cooperation grounds between Tehran and Moscow which will continue in the long run. This is quite possible. Iran should become coordinated with Russia and China with regard to its nuclear case in order to prevent them from becoming inclined toward more cooperation with the West. Tehran must rather convince them to continue to work with Iran. Therefore, we must think of a way to forge trilateral cooperation among Iran, China, and Russia. Recent remarks by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ms. Ashton have created a very positive atmosphere which shows that they have come to grips with realities and have reached the conclusion that the policy of pressure and negotiation will get nowhere.

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
Translated By: Iran Review

More By Hassan Beheshtipour:

*Iran-Russia-China Relations: Challenges & Interests?:

*Iran Sanctions Will Backfire on EU:

*“Cooperation and Negotiation” Versus “Pressure and Negotiation”:“Cooperation_and_Negotiation”_Versus_“Pressure_and_Negotiation”.htm