Success of Iran-P5+1 Talks Hinges on Realism and Change in Attitude

Friday, April 13, 2012

Interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini
Former Iranian Ambassador to Armenia & Expert on Strategic Issues

After a long interval in which there were no negotiations between Iran and P5+1 and hostilities increased between the two sides – through escalation of Western sanctions against Iran and Iran's insistence on continuation of its nuclear activities – the two sides are expected to get back to negotiating table. General conditions governing future talks have been analyzed in the following interview with Farhad Koleini.

Q: Given the general atmosphere governing international community and considering sanctions against Iran as well as economic problems nagging the international community, regional issues, the situation in Syria, and restoration of Iraq’s international standing… what is your opinion about the main goal and agenda of P5+1 in its future negotiations with Iran?

A: Negotiations between Iran and P5+1 are not usually of a purely bilateral nature, but they actually take place between Iran and various countries, which include permanent members of the UN Security Council and important European countries. Therefore, the agenda of negotiations is not purely simplified in viewpoints of the Western states, but the viewpoints of Russia and China should also be taken into consideration. Therefore, the agenda is usually formulated on the basis of sum total of positions taken by member states of P5+1.

Although Iran's nuclear energy program is currently the main focus of negotiations, due to interdependence of regional developments, the two sides also see negotiations as an opportunity for the exchange of viewpoints and expression of their positions on sensitive issues related to Iran's nuclear case. Therefore, it seems that the Western countries will be concentrating more on a sensitive issue like Iran's nuclear program and will try to adapt their positions in relation to qualitative and quantitative changes in Iran's stances on the nuclear issue.

During this period between previous and future rounds of talks, Iran has succeeded to load fuel rods at Tehran Research Reactor. On the other hand, the country has tested its capability for building nuclear reactors. According to technical officials of Iran, this step can be taken in the upcoming years. Therefore, Iran's technical advances as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran's ability to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) and the result of past negotiations in Istanbul and Geneva are major factors which will influence the agenda of negotiations because the process of technical developments in Iran has been amazing and has pushed the country ahead to a new position.

Concurrently, the Western countries, despite their all-out efforts to impose sanctions on Iran, have come to realize that the policy they had adopted to contain Iran's peaceful nuclear activities has been inefficient. Therefore, the new conditions represent a completely new situation which calls on both sides to reassess the existing circumstances and try to achieve a new point of balance in view of new initiatives which may be offered.

Q: Please explain more about this new situation and both sides’ demands.

A: During this period and in view of frequent reports prepared by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts, Iran has produced about 110 kg of HEU. On the other hand, Iran's increased ability to make centrifuges and the new initiatives it has taken in the field of the nuclear energy, practically prove that quantitative changes in intensity and the power of centrifuges is one of those factors which will affect negotiations. Naturally, the Islamic Republic of Iran is by no means ready to withdraw from its nuclear positions such as its right to produce nuclear materials and use them for peaceful purposes. However, the two sides can agree on a set of definitions and interactions which will enable them to pursue new paths which may lead to technological cooperation and establishment of a nuclear fuel bank. Therefore, we are entering new incremental conditions which if accompanied with necessary guarantees, can be a forerunner to positive conditions in Iran's interactions with the Western countries (including member states of P5+1).

It seems that optimal conditions for negotiations can be a combination of Russia’s step by step initiative and Iran's technical advances in addition to serious determination accompanied with goodwill to create an atmosphere which may foster interaction.

On the other hand, the Western politicians and even their nuclear experts and specialists have reached the obvious conclusion that cornering Iran will have no positive result for them, but will further deepen political gaps in international system. Therefore, instead of causing political rifts in international system, Iran's nuclear issue can be used as an opportunity to forge logical and standardized understandings along with necessary guarantees. This development will depend on how decision-makers manage to appear with adequate resilience in the forthcoming negotiations.

From this angle, policies pursued by P5+1 countries have not been consistent. We see that European countries like UK and France have been taken more stern positions while Germany, also a member of P5+1 and an important factor in survival and integrity of the European Union, has not come along with UK or France’s propaganda drive on Iran. Of course, Berlin has taken positions of its own, but not necessarily in line with London and Paris. On the other side, during this period, the United States has practically proven that it seeks to create a new situation and is pursuing that goal through diplomatic channels. Also, some illegitimate regimes in this region are trying, by taking exaggerated positions, posing threats, and generating false excitement, to influence other countries’ positions on Iran. This is why major differences have come to the surface between positions taken by Tel Aviv and Washington on how to deal with Iran's nuclear activities.

China’s positions in this regard and the big “no” it has said to the US unilateral sanctions against Iran have been one of a kind as Beijing has seldom taken such powerful stances on international issues. On the other hand, Russia has expressed much more serious and categorical positions on Iran's nuclear case in the past few months without any fear about showing its differences with the West to the international community. Therefore, we see that there is currently an opening inside the P5+1 through which it can enter into negotiations to achieve suitable agreements with Iran. Not very long ago, Russia offered its step by step initiative. Faced with Russia’s plan, Western countries either remained silent or tried through covert efforts to distort the plan and prevent Russia from being a ground breaker with regard to Iran's nuclear issue.

Of course, this was not entirely attributable to Iran's nuclear issue, but also to emerging rivalries. Russia is currently providing ideas for global peace, stability and progress and some countries, especially European ones, are not willing to see Russia as a country which creates ideas for peace and stability. Therefore, they are trying to undermine Russia’s step by step plan, despite the fact that Iran also indicated its readiness to consider the plan. The best conditions which can make negotiations worthwhile should be a combination of Russia’s step by step plan in addition to care for Iran's technical achievements and a true determination accompanied with goodwill to create an atmosphere for positive interaction.

I believe that this trilateral arrangement, that is, understanding true nature of Russia’s step by step plan, attention to Iran's advances and capacities in the field of nuclear technology, and mutual goodwill, can change conditions from the status quo to a win-win situation. In fact, the future negotiations, either in Iraq or elsewhere, provide a good opportunity to delineate an outlook.

The West was the main force that encouraged Iran to move in the direction of producing nuclear fuel. Forcing Iran to choose new options was a very important mistake committed by the West. The Islamic Republic of Iran is not willing to linger in the shadow of negative ambiguities and basically, it believes that it does not deserve to remain in that situation. Therefore, Iran's Supreme Leader took a clear position by announcing that there is no military component in Iran's nuclear program.

Q: It seems that under present circumstances and on the verge of future negotiations, having 110 kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU) that you mentioned is considered an issue by the Western side. What is your opinion about Western countries’ attitude toward this 110 kg of fuel and Iran's plan to continue producing it?

A: The West naturally does not want Iran to have HEU. They don’t want Iran to be able to produce highly enriched nuclear fuel and do not want the country to move in that direction. This has been a constant problem that the West has had with Iran. Naturally, when Iran proposed fuel swap to get needed nuclear fuel for Tehran Research Reactor and the proposal fell on deaf ears in the West and became victim of political games, Tehran started to produce HEU. Therefore, it is quite clear that Iran's main encouragement to move in the direction of producing highly enriched nuclear fuel was the West and this was a tactical mistake that the West made.

Forcing Iran to choose new options was a very important mistake committed by the West. The Islamic Republic of Iran is not willing to linger in the shadow of negative ambiguities and basically, it believes that it does not deserve to remain in that situation. Therefore, Iran's Supreme Leader took a clear position in this regard by announcing that there is no military component in Iran's nuclear program and there is no higher stance than the Leader’s to be taken by Iran.

Q: Reuters reported a few days ago that suspending 20-percent uranium enrichment and restricting Iran's enrichment activities to 3.5-percent enriched uranium, will be a major goal pursued by the P5+1 in negotiations with Iran. Since Iran has already announced that it would not suspend 20-percent uranium enrichment and does not recognize fuel swap mechanism as an option for negotiations, how do you think this issue will feature in the forthcoming negotiations?

A: What Reuters reports is naturally the result of what the news agency knows about backstage of the P5+1 decisions and reflects London’s effort for managing Iran's nuclear issue. Although this issue cannot be ignored, it seems that the Islamic Republic of Iran will by no means retract from its qualitative right to produce nuclear material. The issue of quantity of nuclear material can be discussed within framework of the fuel bank initiative which is of course conditional on the agreement of relevant Iranian officials which they may, or may not, put on the agenda of negotiations. On the whole, however, given the importance that Iran attaches to building peaceful nuclear industries, especially with regard to manufacturing nuclear medicines, the country is naturally interested in creating new capacities to build new reactors similar to Tehran Research Reactor. Therefore, perhaps the two sides will be able to create new opportunities on the basis of special views about selling fuel to Iran and giving nuclear technology to the country. This, again, will depend on the attitude and decisions made by officials in charge. I believe that with regard to Iran’s qualitative right, the country has gone beyond the point of no return.

Both sides should try to enrich the negotiations as much as Iran has increased its nuclear capacities. They should also expand capacities to reach an understanding on stability and progress so that both parties would be able to reach the next point where they can achieve even more profound understanding in more important areas of mutual interest. As the Islamic Republic of Iran as frequently announced, it does not look at negotiations as a tactic. The West, on the other hand, has always considered negotiations as a tactic and has done its best to put pressure on Iran while pushing for negotiations at the same time. In line with that policy, it has so far pursued pressure for negotiations and negotiations for pressure. If the West followed the same path in any future negotiations, the outlook of negotiations would not be clear. It seems that the best conditions should be prepared through serious calculations, especially by the Western members of the P5+1.

About one year ago, I took part in an interview and argued that accepting the nuclear Iran is a “strategic imperative for the West.” Here, I must reiterate that Iran enjoys strategic rationality and, therefore, future negotiations are no place for giving advices to or leveling charges against Iran. The west should organize its calculations in a correct manner so that it could reach a common strategic understanding as a replacement to its current approach of posing tactical challenges to Iran.

Ignoring Iran’s progresses and status is very fanciful because the reality on the ground has shown that the world has recognized Iran and the West’s policy to isolate Iran has only led to the ongoing economic crisis in the West. Therefore, the West’s position in challenging Iran is a double-edged sword and this game can have no winner.

The most important point is for both sides to come up with win-win initiatives which can be only achieved through negotiations. I think that the west should not waste and underestimate the importance of the existing situation as balanced movement is the main index of a successful policy.

On the other hand, given Israel’s history of rash measures, any possible disruption in negotiations should be blamed on Tel Aviv and such disruption will only lead to a major geopolitical chaos in the region and the international system. Therefore, any effort to create a false atmosphere before negotiations cannot be fruitful and the two dies should take correct and balanced steps accompanied with necessary guarantees. The West should prove its commitment to interaction, instead of confrontation, so that, negotiations can be carried out within a constructive context.

Key Words: Iran-P5+1, Iran, Negotiations, Sanctions, Nuclear Program, Turkey, Uranium Enrichment, Koleini

Source: Borhan News Site
Translated By: Iran Review

More By Mohammad Farhad Koleini:

*What the Iranian Nuclear Issue Needs:

*Bonn Conference: A Security–Political Approach:

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