Why Geneva Deal Extension Will Not Benefit Iran?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mahdi Mohammadi
Chief Editor of IranNuc.IR and Expert on Strategic Issues

Almost a month has remained before the deadline set for Iran and the P5+1 group of countries to reach a final nuclear deal expires. Despite the fact that both sides have emphasized that the remaining time is enough to work out a final comprehensive deal over Iran's nuclear energy program, some parties are as of now talking about a possible extension of nuclear negotiations. A great number of experts who have been following the nuclear talks, topped by Robert Einhorn – have said with certainty that the two negotiating sides will not be able to achieve a final agreement during the coming weeks. As a result, they argued, it would be better for them to think about a way to extend their negotiations beyond the November 24 deadline. One of the most important questions that should be addressed now is will the extension of negotiations within framework of a new interim deal be beneficial to Iran?

Careful examination of the content of the negotiations will not produce any firm evidence to prove that any agreement would or would not be reached by November 24 deadline. In fact, one may claim that even negotiators themselves are in the dark about what may actually happen up to that date. This is especially true about Iran's uranium enrichment capacity, because it is not clear if Iran would be able to maintain its enrichment program through the final step of the agreement. There are also major rifts between the two sides about the method used and a timetable for the removal of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

In short, Iran says it will not give in to dismantling any part of its enrichment program because in that case, firstly, the country would lose this strategic technology, which has so far served as a major deterrent factor against enemies. Secondly, accepting long-term suspension of enrichment activities in Iran would, from a strategic viewpoint, mean that the Western strategy of mounting pressure on Iran has been effective in changing Iran's calculations. As a result, such a state of affairs can easily convince the United States not only to continue with its pressure project, but also extend it to other sectors as well. In this way, Iran will not only lose its capacity to enrich uranium, but will also lose many other things. This is why Iran has been insisting that it will only negotiate about a timetable for transition from the current level of nuclear capacity to 190,000 SWUs (separative work units) and will never negotiate about further restriction of its current enrichment program.

As for the sanctions, the situation is much worse. I will discuss this in a separate article, but here, it would suffice to say that the Americans have no intention of doing anything about the sanctions resolutions adopted against Iran by the United Nations Security Council after the two sides reach a final agreement. At the same time, they do not even plan to remove all unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States against Iran, but will only suffice to US President Barack Obama suspending part of those sanctions that have been imposed by the US Congress. As a result, as they have openly noted, they will maintain the US Congress’ sanctions against Iran for many years to come. On the other hand, Iran is asking for all kinds of sanctions – regardless of whether they have been adopted within or without the Security Council – to be suspended in toto and be finally removed as a whole shortly after their suspension.

The proponents of the extension of the negotiations argue that although there is a wide gap between the two sides with regard to sanctions, there are other issues – including the fate of the Fordow nuclear facility, nuclear research and development in Iran, Arak heavy water reactor, as well as nuclear transparency and the level of inspections – over which negotiations have reached an almost final conclusion. As a result, the proponents claim, these issues can form a basis for a new interim agreement, which will also help both sides to buy more time for further negotiations over more difficult issues.

Such a description of desirability of the extension of the negotiations actually ignores a number of very fundamental facts:

1. First of all, extension of the Geneva agreement in the form of a new interim agreement will totally conform to the US strategy for gradual dismantling of the infrastructure of Iran's nuclear industry without any serious change in the sanctions regime. The Americans are well aware that it will not be possible for them to dismantle Iran's nuclear energy program in one step. Therefore, they have chosen a strategy which in the long term will cause Iran's sensitive nuclear facilities to be shut down and will also lead to depletion of Iran's stocks of nuclear materials. The extension of the Geneva agreement will conform to this strategy and will never lead to a basic change in the sanctions regime against Iran.

2. Assuming that the final goal of Iran's negotiating parties is to achieve a comprehensive deal, accepting a new interim agreement, which will deal further blows to bigger parts of Iran's nuclear energy program, will ultimately reduce Iran's bargaining power in more difficult negotiations that will be held in the future. If the Americans reached the conclusion that they are achieving their goals without having given any considerable concessions to Iran, what motives would they have for giving those concessions? A new interim deal will only serve to strip Iran of any remarkable bargaining chips in future negotiations and at the same time that the strategic dispute between Iran and the United States will continue, Iran's position will be undermined.

3. The next point is that if the United States is really planning to adjust its past positions and reach a mutually acceptable agreement with Iran, no time would be better than the present time. If no agreement is achieved now, what factor would be conceivable in the future to make one believe that it would facilitate achievement of a good agreement then? The US government should now make a number of basic decisions. There is not much time left for further negotiations and, therefore, no innovative step aimed at finding new technical solutions would be able to reduce the US government’s responsibility for making such decisions. About ten days from now, the Republicans will most probably take control of the US Senate as well. In that case, Obama’s administration will only have to January to make a final decision on Iran's nuclear negotiations. If the two sides are going to come up with an acceptable text for a final deal by January, they have only a few weeks to reach an agreement on the basic issues.

4. [Iran's President] Mr. [Hassan] Rouhani and his Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad Zarif] have frequently announced that even in the absence of a final agreement, cracks have already appeared in the structure of Western sanctions against Iran and the situation will never revert to where it was before the Geneva negotiations last November. If the Iranian administration actually believes in what is says it should not be afraid of the possible failure of the negotiations. On the other hand, Americans will have no choice but to continue negotiations and reach an agreement with the Islamic Republic. Regardless of whether the Republicans gain the power in the United States or the Democrats, the overall ability of the US government for countering Iran will not increase, especially in view of the current situation in the region. Therefore, if the Iranian administration is actually trying to clinch a good agreement with the United States, it should convince Washington that Iran is under no duress and distress. Such convincement cannot be achieved through mere speeches and verbal positions. Firm opposition to the continuation of negotiations and insisting that the fate of the discussions should be made clear right now, would dispel this misunderstanding on the part of the United States that Iran seeks an agreement at any price and believes that any agreement is better than none. It is only in that case that the United States would show its true colors.

5. Not extending the interim Geneva agreement should by no means be taken as tantamount to cessation of or quitting the negotiations. It goes without saying that nuclear talks can still continue after Iran has gone back to the situation it had before the Geneva agreement was reached. It is basically unbelievable that the Americans will leave the negotiation table under any circumstances. However, in order to turn the ongoing negotiations into meaningful negotiations, the talks need an appropriate shock, which can be given through opposition to further extension of the Geneva agreement.

Key Words: Geneva Deal, Extension, Iran, P5+1 Group of Countries, Iran's Nuclear Program, November 24 Deadline, Enrichment Program, Sanctions, United Nations Security Council, President Barack Obama, US Congress, Mohammadi

Source: Vatanemrooz Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: Press TV