Iran's Nuclear Talks in Moscow: The Need for 'Win-Win" Approach

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Nasser Saghafi-Ameri
30 June 2012

While an air of optimism prevailed in the new round of talks that began in April between Iran and the six major powers (China, Russia, US, France, UK, and Germany), known as 5+1 in the Istanbul- II meeting, the follow- up meeting in Baghdad in May did not met the expectations, and the meeting in Moscow in June was even more disappointing for reaching an agreement in these talks. From Iranian perspective, the West is now backtracking what was principally agreed before and during the Istanbul-II meeting for finding a 'win-win ' solution to this issue, which meant acceptance by the West of Iran's right for production of nuclear fuel for reactors, and Iran providing the necessary guarantees that its nuclear program would not be diverted to weapons production. During the Istanbul-II meeting the six major powers agreed that negotiations would be conducted within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); that supports Iran's demand for the right to enrich uranium in accordance with the Treaty. They even agreed on Iran's demand that the next meeting be held in Baghdad.

But, the second round of talks in Baghdad in May ended bitterly, as the P5+1 insisted that Iran halt all levels of enrichment, and offered no sanctions relief, which Tehran expected as a minimal in reaching a comprehensive accord. After that, some blamed Israel's lobby for pressuring Obama administration while the competition between Democrats and Republicans in the election year in the US is going on. Thus, the idea of finding a win-win solution soon lost its track; at least for the time being and before the Presidential elections in America. Apparently, since pronouncement of total failure of the talks would have caused panic in oil markets with a sharp surge in oil prices, the door was kept open for future talks at the experts' level in Istanbul on July 3rd.

The present stalemate in talks is viewed differently from Western capitals and Tehran. The West believes the sanctions are hitting Iran hard and time is on their side while they are not prepared to engage Iran for a comprehensive agreement. Apparently, after the Istanbul-II, they have come to a conclusion that accepting Iran's right for enrichment, at any level, even at low levels would undermine the system of sanctions that they have vigorously imposed; and by that they would be losing the chance later to pressure Iran for limiting its nuclear ambitions; or to extract concessions from Iran in the regional geopolitical scene. However, this policy seems to be facing two major challenges. First there is a fear that by increasing belligerencies against Iran through new sanctions it might snowball into a military clash or a full scale war. Second is the risk that hawks in Israel might be tempted to take advantage of the present stalemate to launch an attack against Iran with the aim of dragging the US yet into another war.

 From the Iranian perspective, it has a treaty right in the NPT to master the nuclear fuel cycle under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Thus, it considers the UN Security Council resolutions that the West has sponsored to override that treaty right as illegal. Based on that view point, it is obvious that going back to the same cliché and asking Iran to forgo its right for enrichment would be a non-starter in any future negotiations. Iran says that imposing additional restrictions or limitations on an NPT-signatory's rights by raising demands that goes beyond commitments in the NPT, will have negative effects on this fragile Treaty. To be spared of the continuing harassments that is facing now in the name of the NPT, it would not be inconceivable that at some point Iran might consider abandoning the NPT; although remaining committed to the principles of non proliferation.

Also in analyzing the present dilemma, one should not lose the sight of the fact that "Iran's nuclear issue" originates from a hostile relationship that has existed between Iran and the US during the past 33 years.  Many people are now of the opinion that nuclear is not the core of the crisis, but rather the question is about mistrust in the US-Iran relations. The problem has become even more complicated when the US apparently in an attempt to overwhelm Iran's emerging role in the region, initiated to build a consensus among major powers against Iran's nuclear program that is now in the form of 5+1. The said powers, besides their mutual goal to cap Iran's nuclear program, are now having their own agendas that might not concur with the policies regarding the rapprochement between Iran and the US. Meantime, it is important to keep in mind that seeking a solution for this question is not possible without the US readiness for finding a lasting solution for its relations with Iran through diplomacy and dialogue. That is a critical and necessary decision to be taken by the US administration while there are drum beats of war coming from Neocon- Zionist circles calling Iran's nuclear program as an existential threat to Israel. Of course, their claims are refuted in the published reports by the former and present intelligence officials in both the US and Israel. However, the risk of a mistaken military clash that could burst into a full scale war calls for precautionary measures to be taken by all sides involved. Under these circumstances, going back to the negotiation table with a “win-win” approach on the principle of reciprocity, and of course within the context of the NPT, seems to be the best reasonable option available.