Nuclear Negotiations Approaching the Moment of Truth

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hessameddin Vaez-Zadeh
Assistant Professor, Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran

Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program have been the most complicated negotiations that Iran has experienced throughout its history because the Islamic Republic has never been engaged in such face-to-face and simultaneous talks with five permanent members of the United Nations.

As March 31, 2015, approaches, diplomatic efforts related to this issue and the nuclear negotiations take up a more rapid pace. Therefore, formulation of a final framework for a comprehensive deal over Iran's nuclear program is very important and of high strategic value to Iranian negotiators. For this reason, in his recent important speech, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, determined the final framework of the negotiations on the basis of “achieving an agreement over the details” while stressing that the agreement should be achieved in a single stage. Perhaps, the Americans have been trying to force a two-stage agreement on Iran – that is, first a political agreement followed by a technical one – in order to take the highest amount of concessions from Tehran through their old game of carrot and stick.

The approach taken by the Western, especially American, diplomacy to achieve agreements and consolidate their grip on international issues, especially with regard to important issues, has been to turn a bilateral issue into a multilateral and international one. In this way, they would be able to not only mount pressure on their opposite sides, but also take the highest amount of concessions from them. In doing so, they have ignored the fact that internationalization of issues has not been always to their benefit. This is true because due to subsequent changes in the array of players and their conflicting interests, such internationalization makes it more difficult to reach an agreement and that agreement is usually reached over a more protracted period of time. It should be noted that since the beginning of the nuclear talks, Iran has been putting emphasis on bilateral nature of those talks. However, the negotiations are currently being carried out in a multilateral fashion. This issue is a result of Iran's steadfastness and resistance during past years and its emphasis on the country’s inalienable right to take peaceful advantage of nuclear energy. In fact, the Western countries have reached the agreement that they cannot cope with Iran in bilateral talks, neither collectively, nor individually. Therefore, they decided to change the organization of the negotiations from bilateral talks to multilateral, thus, Iran would have to face six countries, instead of engaging in one-on-one negotiations.

Despite this situation, however, Iran has been able to make the most of these multilateral negotiations. The arrangement of both sides and their agendas are of high importance in diplomatic negotiations. In fact, the Americans have been trying to contain Iran by taking advantage of a European concert (as a means to induce balance of powers). Although they have been relatively successful in this regard during past years, now they are facing fateful days in which they should harvest the fruit of their efforts, though this fruit is not apparently a sweet one. At present, the United States and its allies are facing a major problem in negotiations. Without a doubt, the P5+1 group of countries is facing a difficult problem for giving an answer to Iran and has been engaged in continuous and tiresome contacts because as the deadline for an agreement with Iran approaches, the differences in their interests become more evident. Under these circumstances which are marked by bullying and competition for getting a bigger share of any possible agreement, they have to also take a common position in order to be able to forge a deal with Iran.

Part of this problem should be blamed on the P5+1 countries. From their viewpoint, they should not only answer to their own domestic public opinion, but should also satisfy pressure groups and powerful lobbies because a bad agreement would deal a severe blow to their credit and prestige. It seems that the United States is now regretting the fact that it has internationalized Iran's nuclear issues because at this sensitive juncture, the American officials do not know how to find a face-saving solution for this issue.

One of the problems they are facing is that the policy of carrot and stick employed by the United States has already lost its efficiency. In the meantime, there is no more an international consensus on playing good cop, bad cop game with Iran. This game can no more provide American and other P5+1 negotiators with a respite from ongoing pressures. Recent remarks made by the former British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, which can be considered as a new act in the same good cop, bad cop game, cannot help Europeans either because if this game is to continue, it is time for the P5+1 to play its role. However, there is no doubt that the Americans will continue their efforts to bewilder and confuse Iranian negotiators. In these days that all sides are engaged in hot diplomatic talks, it is very difficult to imagine that if negotiations failed, any other countries, but the United States, would actually take any practical step to escalate sanctions against Iran. Up to the present time, the United States has been able to keep the P5+1 group alive by offering them concessions and also by threatening them. If this nuclear concert falls apart, the last solution would be to go back to bilateral negotiations and this time, the United States will not be Iran's negotiating side. This would mean the failure of the current multilateral system of negotiations and, consequently, would mean the total failure of the United States’ internationalization approach to Iran's nuclear program. The United States has put so much focus on Iran's nuclear program that its failure to achieve a deal with Iran would mean total loss of US President Barack Obama administration’s domestic and international credit.

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution, who is constantly guiding and following the course of the negotiations on Iran's side, said in his recent speech, “I have no opposition to the continuation and progress of the negotiations and reaching a good agreement, and without a doubt, the Iranian nation will not be opposed to any agreement that would guarantee its dignity and respect.” By saying this, the Leader determined the main task of the Iranian negotiators in these fateful and sensitive days and they should take advantage of the current consensus in the country and 35 years of experience in the areas of diplomatic confrontation with the West, especially the United States. On the other hand, rationalism would be a good choice for the P5+1 group. Rationalism dictates that they should go for less costly and more beneficial options that they have for reaching an agreement with Iran.

Key Words: Nuclear Negotiations, Iran, US, P5+1, EU, The Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Speech, Internationalization of Issues, Vaez-Zadeh

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Press TV