Nuclear Negotiations in Geneva: Main Considerations and Mutual Requirements

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gholamali Khoshroo
Senior Editor and vice president of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam

The nuclear program of Iran has turned into a national and multi-partisan issue, just in the same way that the religious prohibition on the manufacture and stockpile of nuclear weapons is a strategic and religious principles; just in the same way that Iran's nuclear rights are undeniable and inalienable; and just in the same way that building trust is a mutual and necessary measure.

The forthcoming negotiations, which follow a preliminary meeting attended by foreign ministers of Iran and the United States [as well as the European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton] in New York earlier this month, should lead to practical steps in view of these principles. Transparent admission of Iran's nuclear rights by the member states of the P5+1 group of world powers, and a mutual agreement on a common framework for the outcome of the negotiations, are among the most essential steps which should be taken in this regard. Negotiations constitute a difficult, well-calculated, and gradual process. Achieving a final result calls for [efforts aimed at] building confidence, transparency and bilateral agreement.

Negotiations meant for the sake of propaganda, which are also protracted and boring and characterized by insistence [of the Western states] on suspension [of uranium enrichment by Iran] and [imposition of] sanctions [against Tehran] will only lead to more distrust, deepening of tensions, and squandering of the opportunities. Confidence building is a two-way process and a goal which can be only achieved through serious negotiations in a step by step manner and within a specific period of time. The administration of “foresight and hope” seeks to realize the rights of the Iranian nation, get unilateral and bilateral sanctions removed, and also to play a constructive role in a region wracked by violence and war. To achieve the above goals, the new administration has adopted a constructive and proactive diplomacy with an approach to building confidence and reaching a common understanding [with the P5+1 group].

Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group had turned into a protracted, one-way and attritive process [during the past years]. After the election of Dr. [Hassan] Rouhani [as Iran's new president] and as a result of the new political developments in the country, a suitable opportunity has been offered in order to put that process on a smooth course, which would be also purposive and leading to understanding and a final result. At present, there are suitable grounds for both sides to attempt to get through the existing atmosphere which is characterized by hostility and tensions, and show their serious resolve to find a final solution to Iran's nuclear issue, thus putting an end to this attritive process. These negotiations have been going on under an atmosphere imbued with mutual distrust and suspicion. They [the P5+1] are suspicious about Iran's final intention of mastering the full nuclear fuel cycle. On the other hand, Iran has been arguing that pressures put on it [on grounds of Tehran’s nuclear energy program] are just a pretext to stymie further growth of its influence and power [in the region], which is based on the country’s national, scientific, and political identity.

Fortunately, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) provides an international framework to which both parties to the Iranian nuclear issue are committed and consider it a basis for the settlement of their disputes. By showing commitment to this treaty, Iran has accepted that it will never seek to produce nuclear weapons. In return, the NPT has recognized the country’s right to make peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Another important point to which both parties have vowed to remain committed is to condemn proliferation, stockpile and the use of nuclear weapons. It is a bitter satire of the history that the P5+1 group prohibits possession of the nuclear weapons for Iran and describes it as dangerous, while considering possession of the same weapons both necessary and useful for its member states!

It should be noted that the nuclear bomb has no place in Iran's defense doctrine. In addition, the Supreme Leader [of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] has issued a brilliant and unique fatwa [religious decree] in which he has announced production and use of all kinds of nuclear weapons as absolutely prohibited. During the past decades, Iran has come under incessant inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the IAEA has clearly announced that there is not even a small speck of evidence to prove that Iran's nuclear energy program has been diverted toward non-peaceful purposes.

When it comes to this point, both parties agree on two points: one is commitment to the NPT, and second, condemnation of the production and stockpile of nuclear weapons. The main root cause of differences, however, is the distrust of the United States and other member states of the P5+1 group toward the main goal of Iran's nuclear energy program. In order to dismiss their concerns, they have regularly called on Iran to totally suspend all its nuclear activities. This is similar to taking out all the teeth in a child’s mouth lest he/she may bite somebody in the future! It is beyond any doubt that such an argument is erroneous at best. Now, the unrightful approach of threats, sanctions, and [calling for] suspension [of Iran's nuclear activities] should be discarded in favor of a new discourse based on peace, interaction and cooperation.

At the present time, the administration of foresight and hope is bent on building mutual trust through a new viewpoint and a novel approach. [The P5+1] should take the best advantage of this opportunity and recognize Iran's right within framework of the NPT. Iran, on the other hand, should seriously pursue technical, legal and political processes that are inherent parts of building confidence [with the P5+1] and also offer full and transparent cooperation with the IAEA. The next round of negotiations [between Iran and the P5+1] will be held later this week in [the Swiss city of] Geneva through which the two negotiating parties will be able to accurately determine and define various aspects of the confidence building process. It is historical and humane duty of all parties involved in negotiations [over Iran's nuclear energy program] to take advantage of this opportunity in order to bolster, peace, security, stability and development in the region.

*Gholamali Khoshroo is the Senior Editor of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam and Former Deputy Foreign Minister for legal and International Affairs, Islamic Republic of Iran (2002-2005). Khoshroo is assistant of President Khatami on “Alliance of civilizations” and Dialogue among Civilizations”. He has served as the Dean of the School for International Relations (1983-89); Ambassador to the United Nations (19890-95); Deputy Foreign Minister for Research and Education,  Member of OIC Commission of Eminent Persons on “Enlightened Moderation”. In recent years, he has extensively worked on the development of contemporary political Islam and its implication for western societies. As a sociologist he studied at Tehran University and New School for Social Research, New York, He has published several articles and books on political and cultural affairs.

Key Words: Nuclear Negotiations, Geneva, Main Considerations, Mutual Requirements, P5+1, Iran, NPT, Sanctions, Nuclear Bomb, Fatwa, Khoshroo

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