Negotiations with P5+1, Best Option to Resolve Iran-West Differences

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Abolqasem Qasemzadeh
Expert on International & Middle East Issues

Another round of official expert-level talks between Iran and the member states of the P5+1 group – the US, the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia – has come to an end in the Swiss city of Geneva. The two sides have agreed that the negotiations should continue following the Christmas holidays. Meanwhile, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who leads the P5+1 group team in negotiations with Iran, has also had a phone conversation with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. During the phone call, the two officials reached the agreement that expert-level talks between Iran and the P5+1 group should continue following New Year holidays in January.

In another development, Zarif took part in a joint press conference in Tehran with the visiting Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, where he told reporters that the nuclear talks are proceeding, though at a slow pace. He made another general reference to the agreements reached between the two sides in Geneva, noting that they would provide a constructive ground for the next stages of the negotiations.

Ashton, on the other hand, took part in an interview in which she noted that experts from both sides had reached good conclusions in their latest talks, but there were still a few problems which should be addressed in more detail.

After the end of the latest round of expert-level talks between Iran and the P5+1 group, the mainstream media outlets both in and out of Iran, have been following two major lines of reporting. Some news services and mass media have taken a generally negative approach to Iran-P5+1 talks after the recent round of negotiations ended in Geneva and their sequel was postponed until after January holidays. They argued that there are still complicated problems at hand, which have practically barred the two sides from reaching a possible agreement. This part of the media, which were not optimistic about the resolution of Iran's differences with the West through diplomacy from the outset, believed that the course of diplomacy will finally crash. To hold up their argument, they offered the following reasons:

1. These differences are three decades old and during this long period of time, they have become so extensive and complicated that they cannot be solved through a diplomatic approach. Both sides still see each other as “enemy” and the wall of distrust is so high that it cannot be easily taken down;

2. Each side only thinks about taking the highest possible number of concessions from the other side and, as much as possible, refrain from giving concessions in return. Therefore, there is no possibility for them to engage in a truly win-win game and this is why a diplomatic approach will be finally doomed to failure; and

3. Although the United States and Israel have been long known as the main enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iran is currently also dealing with regional rivals that are pursuing policies similar to the policies adopted by the United States and Israel both in Iran's neighborhood and elsewhere in the world.

Another obstacle on the way of the possible success of diplomacy in this case is “collaboration and alignment” of certain countries, which are rivals to Iran, with Israel, the age-old archenemy of the Islamic Republic. They have also clearly indicated their opposition to [US President Barack] Obama’s policy on Iran and are against a peaceful and political solution to Iran's nuclear issue.

These countries have been consistently seeking to weaken Iran. They are well aware that resolution of differences between Iran and the United States through dialog and diplomacy will end in two results: firstly, the intensity of the ongoing crises in the Middle East will start to ebb and, secondly, it will be followed by a major U-turn in the West’s (including the Europe’s and the United States’) policy toward Iran, which is by no means desirable to Israel and regional rivals of Iran.

4. There are also certain political groups inside Iran that are against any kind of reconciliation between the Islamic Republic and the United States and consider the path of diplomacy as leading to a “compromise” with the West. They argue that the West’s animosity against Iran emanates from a profound ideological conflict and can be only defined within framework of the confrontation between two powers. As a result, it can be only resolved through elimination or total defeat of one of those powers or its total submission to the other power. As such, the only solution to Iran-West differences, in their opinion, is only conceivable through confrontation.

On the contrary, there are politicians, media outlets and personalities who support Iran's dialog policy and consider it a turning point in efforts made to ensure peace and sustainable security in the Middle East. To hold up their view, they offer the following arguments:

1. After the lapse of three decades, eight years of which was consumed by an intense war imposed on Iran [by the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein], the Islamic Republic of Iran has been able to establish itself as a major power in the Middle East despite all the problems it has had to deal with during this period. At present, Iran's regional power has reached such a high level that no crisis in the region can be resolved without active participation of the Islamic Republic of Iran;

2. If we seek an end to the ongoing crises in the Middle East, we must know that this goal cannot be achieved through waging a new war in the Middle East and that against the biggest and the most powerful country in this region; namely Iran. In addition, the West (Europe and the United States) are not in favorable economic and social conditions to allow them undertake such a new war and accept its financial and human costs.

3. The last tactic chosen to mount pressure and threat against Iran was the plan to impose comprehensive sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Although this tactic has been relatively successful for the West, it has been also very costly. At present, global conditions do not allow for the policy of sanctions to continue without causing major problems for its protagonists. Continuation of the sanctions will finally force European counties and the United States to choose between one of these two main options: either to use diplomacy with Iran, or engage in war with it.

Another major risk of the sanctions policy is that it blocks the way to the choice of any other option but war. The Western states know that they may be able to start this war, but it would not be for the West to end it. As a result of such apprehensions as well as due to the high costs of such a possible war, all Western countries are greatly concerned about its possibility.

4. For any reasons, the West (Europe and the United States) does not want to leave Israel as the sole hegemonic power in the Middle East and accept its unrivaled superiority over the entire region. From the viewpoint of the Western countries, security in the Middle East is the product of the balance of power among major regional players and if this balance is disturbed, a war would be its most possible outcome.

5. From the viewpoint of the Western countries in Europe and the United States, Iran enjoys a highly geostrategic position in this geographical part of the world. They also believe that the value of Iran and its position has greatly increased after the collapse of the former Soviet Union and independence of the former Soviet republics.  The value of oil and gas reserves in the region, of which Iran is a major holder, has been doubled and using Iran as a corridor for Western investments in 14 countries that are situated in its neighborhood would be very profitable for the Western states.

6. To choose the path of diplomacy with Iran is a necessity for the West and the Islamic Republic of Iran also shares that necessity with the West.

7. The West and Iran have found out that developments taking place in the course of time have brought about different conditions and correct understanding of these developments has forced both sides to choose for a peaceful approach and dialog as the best solution to their differences.

The public opinion in both Europe and the United States has voted yes to continuation of diplomacy with Iran. People in those countries have been asking their governments to pursue these talks until they reach a clear and complete result. The main problem for Israel and the pro-Israeli lobby in the West is to convince the public opinion on Iran. Obama is especially willing to create and register a historical turning point for his administration with respect to relations between Iran and the United States. Although negotiations are tortuous and, at times, it is difficult to reach an agreement over certain issues, as the Iranian foreign minister has announced, both sides’ leaders are bent on reaching a basic, all-out and final solution through negotiations.

Key Words: Nuclear Negotiations, P5+1, Iran-West Differences, Expert-Level Talks, Catherine Ashton, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Diplomatic Approach, Sanctions, Israel, Geostrategic Position, Qasemzadeh

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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