Iranian Nuclear Problem: Does it Have Solution?

Iranian Nuclear Problem: Does it Have Solution?

The recent session of United Nations General Assembly brought the issue of Iran’s new foreign policy course to the fore. It is still hot enough to hit the media radar screen. The next round of Geneva talks devoted to the Iran’s nuclear program is slated to take place on October 15-16. The group of six international intermediaries (Russia, the United States, Great Britain, France, China and Germany) expects to receive a concrete reply to proposals put forward in Alma-Ata. To the contrary, the Iranian delegation hopes the group of six nations will come up with something that would give the process a new lease on life. All parties are of accord that a tangible result should be reached in a short period of time but there is still no definite statement from Iran confirming its resolve to close the nuclear dossier…

Does the Iranian nuclear problem have a solution? Will Iran change its strategy? Is there any ground to believe the Geneva talks will end up with a breakthrough? The Iranian leadership has done enough to demonstrate its willingness to take concrete actions to convince the six nations its program exists solely for peaceful purposes. The Tehran’s constructive approach is reflected in many ways, for instance, after a long interval Geneva is chosen again to host the negotiation teams. Even tackling the issue of choosing the place for talks has given start to confrontation with the group of six in recent years. Many a time Iran came up with “geographic surprises”. It considered Geneva as the other team’s field moving the conference venue farther – to Bagdad, Moscow or Alma-Ata. This time the proposal to resume the negotiation process in the city, which has become a traditional place for international talks held on controversial issues since a long time ago, met no objections. 

With the new Iranian cabinet formed, the decision to delegate the talks on the nuclear issue to the national foreign office has become an important step forward. Now the negotiation process is the responsibility of Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs. His deputies have joined the negotiation team. The officials like Abbas Aragchi, Iran's deputy Minister for International and legal affairs, and Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American affairs, have rich diplomatic experience behind including the positions of ambassadors in European countries. Reza Najafi is assigned to the position of Iran's new ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Najafi has previously served as the general manager of Foreign Ministry’s Political and International Affairs, chairman of Foreign Ministry’s Disarmament and International Security, Iran’s representative and senior advisor at the UN Disarmament Commission in New York, and Iran’s deputy representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at The Hague. The assignments could be viewed as a sign of Hassan Rouhani’s independence. The fact that Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ali Khamenei delegated the authority on security issues decision process to President Rouhani and his government is a matter of fundamental importance. The permission is given to seek a compromise at the talks with the group of six within the limits of concessions, which had apparently been agreed on previously as acceptable for Tehran. 

There had been quite a different picture when the talks had been held by Rouhani’s predecessors. So the chances for success are higher now. This is confirmed by the results of talks held between Iran and the group of six in New York at the level of foreign chiefs. According to experts, the talks were the beginning of new chapter in the bilateral relationship and laid the foundation for Geneva process based on “win-win” formula. The United States and Iran’s foreign chiefs met eye to eye and said afterwards that the meeting yielded positive results. Iran has never had a chance to have a direct dialogue with the United States at such a high level since 2007. 

The US-Iran straight contacts do away with the European fears of a negative reaction on the part of the United States that follow in case the American “old continent” allies restart bilateral contacts with Tehran. Great Britain and Iran have made an important step forward to restore the diplomatic ties severed in 2011 after the UK embassy was attacked in Tehran. Before the Geneva talks kick off, the sides will have assigned charge d’affaires to normalize the relations and take steps to open embassies. Leaving Great Britain behind, France was the first country whose leader shook hands with the Iranian counterpart. The meeting between Holland and Rouhani is a historical event – there has been no handshake between the countries’ leaders since 2005. All these years Paris has led the European Union’s efforts aimed at using sanctions as a tool to exert pressure on Iran and make it refuse the nuclear program. With Rouhani coming to power, France has become more restrained towards Tehran, as the signs for positive changes have become visible. Now France is expecting “concrete steps” at the Geneva talks that would demonstrate the willingness to close the nuclear military program. Germany is not in a hurry to start direct talks with the new Iranian leadership, besides it has other claims towards Tehran to put forward. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has urged Iran in a written statement to "meet its obligations to protect human rights and to strive to play a constructive role in the region.'' The Berlin’s stand caused discontent on the part of Iranian leadership. It took it almost three months to reply to the greetings sent by German President Joachim Gauck on the occasion Rouhani’s electoral victory. Only by the end of September, having become convinced Germany will not agree to hold a bilateral meeting in New York, Rouhani responded to his German counterpart saying Germany was the most important partner for Iran among the European all the European Union member-states. 

The new Iranian diplomacy believes the European Union does its best to mediate between the United States and Iran seeking a way out of the economic crisis. To sum it up, the Iran’s efforts to normalize the relations with the group of six nations may undoubtedly give a positive impetus to the nuclear talks in Geneva. 

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov expresses optimism in relation to prospects for revived nuclear program negotiation process. Moscow believes the Iranian leadership statements give ground for hopes that the Geneva talks will lead the process out of stalemate and give it a chance to achieve some headway. Reaching positive results will allow gradual easing of sanctions to finally have them lifted. The Russian policy remains unchanged; the prospect of Iran going nuclear is unacceptable for Russia. China, too, remains strongly opposed to any use of force against Iran. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei urged Tehran to show "flexibility and sincerity" as a way to encourage renewed international dialogue.  Moscow and China are consistent in their support for the solution based on mutual respect instead of ultimatums, especially in view of the fact that not a single intelligence service in the world has come up with irrefutable evidence Iran strives for nuclear military capability. In case Iran will have to set aside the presumption of innocence principle and prove it has no nuclear program to produce weapons, it will make the nuclear industrial effort transparent. Even Americans admit that Iran has a right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Obama sent a message of reconciliation to Iran in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. While he reiterated American opposition to the idea of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, he expressed support for an Iranian civilian nuclear program. “We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy”, he said. After that, the Iranian parliament supported the Rouhani’s foreign policy with a 260 (out of 290) vote. The ongoing rapprochement between Washington and Tehran adds new chances to the Geneva talks success. Let’s recall that in case of Washington the normalization of relations to lift the sanctions is possible only if Iran joins the additional protocol to the Nonproliferation Treaty, stops uranium enrichment at certain level and allows UN inspections of the uranium enrichment facility Fordu situated near the holy city of Qom. 

 Part of these conditions could be met in Geneva. It is expected that Tehran will agree to stop the uranium enrichment at 20%, because, as the Iranians admit themselves, what they have in storage already exceeds the national requirements. According to the recent report prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has increased its 20% enriched uranium stock up to 372, 5 kg now from 324 kg reported in May. It is also expected Iran will agree to more thorough and comprehensive inspections by the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in comparison with the checks the IAEA experts have conducted until recently. Talking about the prospects for the closure of Fordu uranium enrichment facility, this concession is excluded: it goes beyond the limits of what is acceptable and would send a wrong message to demonstrate that Iran admits it has suffered a defeat instead of sticking to more flexible diplomacy… 

Tags: IAEA  UN  Iran  US  Rouhani