Monday, 30 March, 2020

Eight Reasons Why P5+1 Cannot Accept Iran’s Initiatives

Seyed Mohammad Eslami
Expert on Middle East Issues

The marathon race of nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1–US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China – is still going on at a slow and tiring pace. In Iran, some high-ranking officials including President Hassan Rouhani and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi, have made positive remarks about the possibility of a comprehensive nuclear agreement. On the opposite, some Western officials have been insisting that nobody should be optimist about the fate of the talks. Following the end of three days of talks in the Austrian city of Vienna, the question that still arises is why Western countries, especially the member states of the P5+1 group, are not willing to accept diplomatic initiatives offered by Iran? It seems that apart from technical difficulties experienced in the negotiations, there are other and more general reasons which have been blocking the path to achievement of a comprehensive deal in nuclear talks.

1. Incorrect understanding of the role that sanctions play in diplomatic talks

The first obstacle on the way of achieving such an agreement is the wrong mentality of the Western countries, especially American negotiators, about the real role played by the mechanism of sanctions used against Iran. For example, some American politicians like National Security Advisor to US Vice President Jake Sullivan, who is also a top American negotiator in nuclear talks with Iran, believe that sanctions have played a decisive role in bringing Iran to negotiations with the P5+1 group. However, the focus by such people on the effectiveness of the sanctions mechanism, has made them unable to pay due attention to other realities. Some decision-makers in countries negotiating with Iran are of the opinion that the impact and pressure of international sanctions has been the main impetus behind the negotiations. They do not pay attention to two other parallel realities. Firstly, negotiations about Iran’s domestic nuclear energy program had started much earlier than the imposition of sanctions. In other words, sanctions were not instrumental in bringing Iran to the negotiating table and such a notion is nothing more than a mental image which has been annexed to the negotiations by the Western countries that are currently unable to imagine negotiations independent of sanctions.

2. Lack of understanding about motivations of Dr. Rouhani’s administration and Dr. Zarif’s diplomatic approach

The second obstacle on the way of achieving an agreement in nuclear negotiations is lack of attention to the second reality in parallel to the progress of nuclear talks. This reality is the strategy adopted by the administration of the Iranian President Dr. Rouhani as well as the foreign policy approach adopted by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for constructive interaction with Western countries and international organizations. In other words, Western countries have been mistaken about the resolve shown by Rouhani’s administration to pursue diplomacy and also about Zarif’s skillful management of negotiations with the Western countries. As a result, they have come to believe that Iran’s willingness to engage in nuclear talks has been an effect of sanctions imposed on the country during recent years. In doing so, they have even ignored the fact that these two issues do not stem from the West’s sanctions policy against Iran, and inattention to this fact by the West would only lead to squandering of a historical opportunity.

3. Misunderstanding Iran’s sovereign positions in nuclear talks and futile expectation of Iran to retreat

It seems that Western countries, which have been trying to aggrandize the role of sanctions in nuclear negotiations, are not capable of understanding this reality that the Islamic Republic of Iran will under no circumstances give up its indigenous nuclear energy program, which is aimed at industrial scale activities. Therefore, they erroneously think that the sovereign red lines that Iran has considered for the negotiations are nothing but chips to be used for further bargaining. The course of negotiations from Vienna 6 talks up to the present time, further bolster this speculation that the Western countries are wrongly waiting for Iran to make a sudden historical retreat. However, in view of the current realities on the ground in Iran and indigenization of the country’s nuclear technology, such an expectation seems to be totally futile and the only thing that it may do is to block the way to any kind of rational negotiation aimed at achieving intermediate and innovative solutions.

4. Being assured that Iran is neither trying to make nuclear bomb, nor will do so in future

The fourth reason or obstacle on the way of achieving a comprehensive nuclear deal is the fact that Iran’s negotiating parties are sure that the Islamic Republic of Iran will never move toward building a nuclear bomb even under the worst conditions. In spite of the media approach that the Western countries have taken during more than 10 years that they have been dealing with Iran’s nuclear case, they are totally aware that the production and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has no place in the defense and security doctrine of the Islamic Republic. Therefore, they are of the opinion that even a possible failure of the negotiations will not push the situation toward a worse-case scenario.

5. Inattention to widespread effects of global financial crisis and great difficulty for maintaining regional and international consensus for continuation of sanctions against Iran

It seems that countries negotiating with Iran are too optimistic about their ability to maintain the already fragile consensus that exists at international level for the continuation of sanctions against Iran. Imagining that they can tolerate the future costs of their efforts to make Iran internationally isolated, the Europeans and Americans are in no hurry to catalyze a possible agreement between the two sides. However, the mere bulk of covert and overt negotiations with Iran during the past months should have done away with this notion. This is true as the international financial crisis is still raging on and economic experts are bracing for new waves of the crisis which will engulf all countries. The crisis is sure to further undermine non-economic policies adopted by the Western countries for the imposition of sanctions against Iran and will make it more difficult for them to put up with its consequences.

6. Symbolic role of NPT and IAEA in nuclear talks

In addition to misunderstandings that have blocked the way to a possible agreement, there are some other reasons which prove that adopting a purely political approach to negotiations by the Western countries has prevented them from taking good advantage of the legal and technical capacities of this opportunity. Since countries negotiating with Iran do not consider international organizations and treaties as the source of their international power, they are also inattentive to the consequences of their current policy, which may undermine the credibility of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the United Nations. In doing so, they even ignore the fact that nuclear talks with Iran are not carried out in a vacuum and other countries, though silently, are witnessing the entire course of these negotiations.

7. Political pressures by anti-Iran lobby groups and adventurist ideas

From the viewpoint of independent Western experts, the nuclear case of Iran is much simpler than what political figures want the world to believe. It would suffice to have a look at various remarks made by European and American think tanks. They have noted that the consequences of inability to achieve an agreement with Iran would be much more destructive than the outcomes of a possible agreement with Iran. However, in spite of all these logical calculations, everybody knows that during negotiations with Iran, the Western countries have been under tremendous pressure from anti-Iran lobbies, including the Israeli lobbies as well as some Arab lobbies in the region. In other words, another reason why negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries have been so sluggish is the impact of pressures mounted by these lobbies on various negotiating parties. Therefore, despite what has been announced by Western media, technical difficulties are not the main reason why negotiations are progressing slowly.

8. Rivalries and conflicts within P5+1 group

Internal rifts among member states of the P5+1 group should be added to all the aforesaid reasons that have been mentioned as the main obstacles on the way of achieving a comprehensive agreement in negotiations with Iran. If mutually political extortionist efforts made by Russia and the United States or mutually economic extortionist efforts made by Europeans and the Chinese were omitted from the underway talks, it would become easier for everybody to accept Iran’s innovative solution by taking advantage of the available legal and technical capacities. However, everybody knows that the nuclear case of Iran has in many instances ground to a standstill due to internal differences among member states of the P5+1 group, which have had nothing to do with diplomatic positions taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The time is running fast before the deadline set by the Joint Plan of Action for Iran and the member states of the P5+1 group to achieve a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy program is reached. The steps ahead of us, especially negotiations projected to be held on November 24, which will be most probably held in New York, will show whether or not the six countries negotiating with Iran enjoy enough political resolve to pave the way for sustainable peace and make it a model of successful collective diplomacy.

Key Words: P5+1 Group of Countries , Iran’s Initiatives, Sanctions, Nuclear Talks, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Hassan Rouhani, Constructive Interaction, Nuclear Bomb, IAEA, Anti-Iran Lobby, Rivalries and Conflicts, Eslami

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