Gholamali Khoshroo Senior Editor of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam,
Former Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for International Affairs
Designated Ambassador of Iran to Bern
Nuclear talks between Iranian and American delegations were held yesterday (June 10, 2014) in the Swiss city of Geneva. Before the beginning of the negotiations, Abbas Araqchi, a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, had emphasized that in order for the nuclear talks to reach a solid result, the Western side of the negotiations would have to make difficult decisions.
1. It is noteworthy that the United States is the country that has already imposed many unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic. As a result, it was necessary for Iran to directly talk to the United States with regard to outstanding issues, so that, there would be fewer problems to be tackled in the forthcoming high-ranking nuclear negotiations in the Austrian capital city of Vienna, where negotiating parties are supposed to come up with a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy program. The issue of sanctions is currently the most important problem that Iran has with the United States. The United States has imposed a great number of unilateral sanctions against Iran. Part of those sanctions have been adopted by the US Congress, another part is the result of the executive orders issued by the US president and yet a third part of US sanctions against Iran is the outcome of the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions resolutions. Therefore, removal of these sanctions has been one of the major topics over which Iran has been willing to negotiate with the United States. In fact, it should be made clear how the opposite negotiating party is going to fulfill its obligations vis-à-vis Iran.
2. Of course, the American side has its own concerns, but Iran has so far taken a lot of confidence building measures in order to prove that it has no plan to take non-peaceful advantage of nuclear energy. Iran has even emphasized that it considers military application of nuclear energy legally prohibited and religiously forbidden (haram). Therefore, the Islamic Republic is ready to come clear over transparency of its nuclear energy program provided that the other negotiating parties will clearly recognize Iran’s nuclear tights. Anytime that the opposite parties, especially the United States, put forth logical demands, Iran will certainly take them into account. However, if they are just trying to find imaginary excuses to mount pressure on Iran in spite of the country’s confidence building measures, negotiations will get nowhere. Discussing intentions, behaviors, and future plans related to the nuclear issue by both Iran and the United States will be very effective in paving the way for ultimate measures to be taken ahead of a final deal. Therefore, bilateral talks can provide necessary grounds for the facilitation of the achievement of a final agreement. Of course, this will be conditioned on both sides having necessary political will to really find a final solution to this problem.
3. The United States’ approach to the Middle East has been very costly during the past 15 years. Now, if Washington is really determined to go on with a policy of interaction, development and countering extremism, the only way for doing this is to engage in constructive interaction with Iran and respect the country’s rights. In this regard, there is no doubt that the Islamic Republic of Iran will naturally take every necessary step to prove peaceful nature, transparency and constructive quality of its nuclear activities. This is especially true about the new Iranian administration which has based its policies on “hope and foresight” and which is sure to spare no effort in this respect. As a result of the above facts, it is crucial for Iran in this juncture to have necessary information about the United States’ intentions and plans, especially with regard to Iran’s nuclear energy program, and Iranian officials should be informed of and make sure about the maximum and minimum limits of Washington’s demands. Therefore, during the ongoing two-day talks all issues of difference should be discussed in order to prevent forthcoming Vienna talks from being stalled by any problems related to these issues.
4. High-ranking American officials, including William J. Burns [the current US Deputy Secretary of State] and Jake Sullivan [national security advisor to US Vice President Joe Biden], are also involved in the ongoing negotiations. These people play an important role in the decision-making process within the White House with regard to Iran’s nuclear case. They have already played their part in changing the United States policy from reducing Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity to zero, to the current policy of accepting Iran’s enrichment right under international supervision. Such a change in the US policy toward Iran has been a positive step which has played a very influential role in helping the progress of nuclear talks. At present, the main bone of contention between Iran and the United States is that uranium enrichment in Iran should not be so restricted and conditions should not become so complicated as to practically deprive Iran of its right to enrich uranium within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The United States should be serious in its change of policy and its main concern should be the possibility of any diversion in Iran’s nuclear energy program, rather than the very existence of this program. In this regard, the Islamic Republic will certainly be ready to extensively cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in order to assure the Western side that its nuclear energy program will remain peaceful and there is no diversion in that program toward any non-peaceful purposes. Therefore, presence of these American officials may be a factor that would help negotiations to further progress.
5. It should be noted that political issues are currently more important for the American side than purely technical issues. However, the Americans should reach the conclusion once and for all that Iran’s nuclear energy program is peaceful and will remain so. The only concern that they can have is about transparency of Iran’s nuclear energy program and the country’s cooperation with the IAEA. Of course, Iran has extensively cooperated with the IAEA during the past four months and has given transparent answers to questions posed by its inspectors and this situation should practically do away with the alleged concerns of the Americans. If the United States is actually trying to further restrict or finally dismantle all nuclear activities of Iran, this will be not only against all the rules of international law, but will also cause the historical opportunity for constructive interaction with Iran to be squandered. I personally believe that if the necessary political will exists in the member states of the P5+1 group, the fate of a comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear energy program can be determined within the few weeks that remain [from the six-month period considered by the interim Geneva agreement]. However, if there is no political will to respect Iran’s rights and guarantee that Iran’s nuclear energy program will remain peaceful, even six more months of negotiations will fail to bring fruit.
Key Words: US Policy Change, Success of Nuclear Talks, Iran, US Congress, Sanctions, UNSC, William J. Burns, Jake Sullivan, NPT, IAEA, Khoshroo