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Nov-16-2013 18:02printcomments

Four Realities about Nuclear Talks in Geneva

United States Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that the three-day talks were characterized with “mutual respect.”

Iran, talks in Geneva
Special thanks to Iran Review

(TEHRAN Iran Review) - Geneva negotiations [between Iran and the six world powers over Iran's nuclear energy program] wrapped up following three days of heavy diplomatic wrangling after the two sides declared their decision to continue negotiations within 10 days. In this interval, to be sure, a lot of consultations and brainstorming will take place in the capitals of seven countries that are involved in nuclear talks – which in addition to Iran include the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China. There is no doubt that the importance and sensitivity of these talks – which drew five foreign ministers of big powers to Geneva in an unprecedented manner within 24 hours to talk to their Iranian counterpart – is high enough to make any guess, assumption and prediction about their future course quite difficult. This is especially true because according to an agreement among the seven participating countries, an accurate picture of the topics covered by the negotiations is going to be withheld from the public opinion and media until a final result, which would be satisfactory to both sides, is achieved.

Apart from the guesswork and analyses, which are based on the possibility of a deal between the two sides, there are a number of noteworthy realities about the three-day negotiations in Geneva which should be taken into consideration here.

1) Prevalence of optimism over pessimism

At the end of every round of negotiations, it is quite natural for critical political groups and currents to take the opportunity in order to challenge the negotiations in their totality. However, prevalence of optimism about the possibility of finding a solution for the “case of the century,” is the main conclusion which can be drawn after considering the reactions shown by the two negotiating sides, both during and at the end of the nuclear talks in Geneva. In his press interview at the end of the negotiations, the Iranian foreign minister [Mohammad Javad Zarif] said, “I am not disappointed. Differences are natural. But the last session was very good because it showed that the political resolve for achieving an agreement does really exist.”

The United States Secretary of State John Kerry also told reporters a few minutes after Mr. Zarif and [the European Union foreign policy chief] Catherine Ashton held their joint press conference that extensive progress had been made in nuclear negotiations with Iran. He also noted that the three-day talks were characterized with “mutual respect,” adding that through those negotiations the two sides not only managed to reduce their differences, but also got closer to a single opinion.

Similar optimistic remarks were also made by the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who heads the negotiating team of the P5+1 group of world powers in their talks with Iran, as well as by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

2) Prevalence of real diplomacy and negotiations over “other options are still on the table!”

During the recent round of nuclear talks, there was no room for such bullying remarks as “all options are still on the table,” to which the Iranian government and nation are especially allergic. Even John Kerry emphasized in his interview, which took part before the joint press conference attended by Ms. Ashton and Mr. Zarif, that “diplomacy” could be the best means of reaching the common goal of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These developments clearly showed that, firstly, the futility of the threat to use the military force to stop Iran's nuclear energy program, which is considered by Iranians as their inalienable right as per the contents of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has been proven beyond any doubt. Secondly, the involved governments have earned the understanding that although the process of talks and negotiations may be time consuming, it is much more valuable and will produce such lasting results as to make it preferable to use of military threat and intervention. This is a sign of the political maturity of the international community. After many centuries that war has been present and overshadowed the life of humans, who made recourse to it at any price, the governments are gradually coming to grips with the reality that resorting to war would be followed by much more destructive consequences than diplomacy. During the 19th and 20th centuries as well as in early years of the 21st century, governments, especially powerful states, did not hesitate to resort to any excuse for the use of military power against others the latest examples of which were military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as NATO’s military operations in Libya. All those cases are now being considered as dark points which came about through uninformed and warmongering decisions made by certain big powers. On the opposite, the recent agreement between the United States and Russia for the chemical disarmament of Syrian government, instead of launching a military strike against the country, was a sign that states are gaining a better understanding of how to settle their disputes. Looking at the issue from this point of view, we would come to the conclusion that the latest protracted talks between Iran and the P5+1 group should be considered a turning point. Once disclosed, the contents of these negotiations will serve as one of the best sources for the education of students in such fields as international relations, international law and peace studies in the years to come.

Part of what the former French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said during his October 9 interview with the Persian service of the BBC confirms this hypothesis. In part of that interview, he pointed to the experience of using force in Afghanistan noting that the war in Afghanistan proved that recourse to force cannot solve any problem. As a consequence, he added, the mentality of the Western countries has changed because they have already two major failures in Afghanistan and Iraq in the form of the US military intervention in those countries, behind them. The former French foreign minister also stated that even the case of military intervention of NATO in Libya was a failure. De Villepin stated that all the past policies and dreams about establishing peace by merely changing the governments have been discarded, noting that the two sides to Iran nuclear negotiation seem to have become more mature as a result of which, they have been following more realistic approaches.

3) Shattering the taboo of direct negotiations between Iran and the United States

Although the negotiating sides failed to achieve an agreement during these round of talks in Geneva, the nuclear talks were marked with unprecedented bilateral and trilateral (attended by Mr. Ashton) negotiations between high-ranking representatives of Iran and the United States. This development has had no precedence since diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington were severed more than three decades ago. Let’s not forget that even a year ago, if the representatives of Iran and the US passed by each other at a corridor, met face to face, or even exchanged short compliments, it would have been the most sensational news for major media outlets. However, such contacts were made ordinary following a bilateral meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers on the sidelines of the recent annual session of the UN General Assembly. Finally, this trend will make it possible for both countries to establish direct contacts, especially with the goal of engaging in dialogue aimed at solving countless problems and misunderstandings that exist between Tehran and Washington as a result of more than three decades of distrust.

4) Protecting national power and self-esteem of Iranians

The following points are noteworthy in this regard:

A) Some political currents inside Iran have been, and still are, trying to prove that any form of negotiations aimed at finding a solution to Iran's nuclear issue and achieving a tangible result in this regard is tantamount to withdrawal from Iran's revolutionary ideals and submission to the West. However, the speech made by the Leader of Iran Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei a few days before the beginning of the negotiations, practically thwarted a big part of such efforts. During that sensitive juncture, the Leader said in a public speech that: “Nobody should label our group of negotiators as submissive. These [people] are our own children and the children of the [Islamic] Revolution. They have undertaken a difficult mission and nobody should undermine an agent who is doing something [for the country].” The Leader then added, “As I said before, I am not optimistic about these negotiations, but by permission of Allah, we would suffer no loss through these negotiations either and this experience will boost intellectual capacity of our nation. If negotiations hit a result, so much the better. However, if they do not lead to a result, it would mean that the country should stand on its own feet.”

It should not be forgotten that it is now Iran's plan that has been put to negotiation and bickering, not a plan or agenda put forth by the P5+1 group. It goes without saying that this, per se, is a major achievement for the country’s diplomacy.

C) Creating a powerful atmosphere of empathy with and support for nuclear officials within the domestic political sphere of Iran was another good result of the negotiations. In this regard, the remarks made by various Friday Prayers leaders across the Islamic Republic in support of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team are worthy of consideration. Of special import are the remarks by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, which he made as Ms. Ashton and Messrs. Zarif and Kerry were engaged in five-hour talks. The chairman of the Iranian Expediency Council and the country’s former two-time president described the five-hour meeting as “good evidence attesting to the seriousness of both sides.” He continued by saying, “While certain people were trying to escalate tension in the society and sow division on the eve of the negotiations by labeling [members of] the negotiating team as submissive, the guidelines provided by the Leader not only boosted the resolve of Iran's political representatives to go on with the negotiations, but also showed to the world that the negotiators enjoy the support of the [Iranian] Leader and people because if [the Iranian negotiators] were not serious, they [the P5+1 representatives] would not be serious either and the foreign ministers of the P5+1 would not have traveled to Geneva.” Rafsanjani also described negotiations in Geneva as “a serious turning point in the history of Iran, the region, and the entire world.”

Rafsanjani’s remarks are, in fact, indirect endorsement of what the former French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said in his interview with the Persian service of the state-run BBC on October 9. While putting emphasis on the importance of such negotiations, De Villepin said the fact that Iran has accepted to return to the negotiating table and its attempt to resume playing the role of a regional player – of course a regional player acting out a positive, rather than a negative role – is a major factor which will change many equations. He added that the prospect of Iran playing such a role has stirred panic in many quarters, most notably in Saudi Arabia and other conservative monarchies of the Middle East, which are especially susceptible to such changes…. Now, De Villepin said, the game will change. He added that the change will not only affect the relations between Iran and the United States, but also the whole strategic game in the Middle East. Warning that the position of Israel should be also taken into account when making any calculation, the former French prime minister emphasized that irrespective of Israel’s position the entire strategic game in the Middle East will undergo a radical change.

It seems that the changes have already gotten underway. Regardless of what the short- or medium-term results of the negotiations will be, there is no doubt that neither our region is the same as it was one year ago, nor Iran, the United States and many global equations are what they used to be a year before. Perhaps, understanding the reason behind extreme anger that afflicts Netanyahu when he imagines “progressing negotiations among seven powerful countries of the world” would be easier with the above considerations in mind.

More By Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh:

*Hacking Iran-US Hostile Relations:

*Iran: Moderation, Hope, and Changing Attitudes (Part 2/2):

*Iran: Moderation, Hope, and Changing Attitudes (Part 1/2):

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh is the Executive Editor of Iran Review



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