Iran walks a U.N. tightrope as the nuclear deadline looms

While the nuclear talks continue between Iranian and Western negotiators in New York City, sparse details have been released

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

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While the nuclear talks continue between Iranian and Western negotiators in New York City, sparse details have been released to the press. Keeping the talks behind closed doors gives a sense that they are highly sensitive at this stage.

On Thursday, a very short briefing was made by Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, after an emergency session at the U.N. Security Council in which the foreign ministers addressed the current security crisis in Iraq. Rather than Iran’s foreign minister taking the podium to address his counterparts, Araghchi spoke on behalf of Mohammad Javad Zarif:
“I can say that in general, a very good atmosphere rules the negotiations,” he said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has not been very publically visible at the U.N., but is popular in the U.S. media.

At this crucial time in the negotiating process, with the interim deal set to expire on November 24, there is no time to lose for Zarif and his negotiating team.

The New York talks are a landmark, face-saving diplomacy push

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Last November, the world reeled from the announcement of the groundbreaking interim nuclear deal, hammered out under the new presidency of Hassan Rowhani. A 15-minute phone call between Rowhani and his American counterpart made international headlines and ushered in a more positive atmosphere .

A year has passed since then and a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear talks still has not been reached. It seems that the relationship between the two countries is souring, but not ruined.

Precarious talks

Despite some success so far, all would be ruined if Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei reached the conclusion that the U.S. is not being sincere and honest at the talks.

The supreme leader is disappointed with the coalition formed against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and this makes the nuclear talks a little fragile. This may be why U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week: “There is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran.”

Kerry’s remarks seem to have pleased Tehran as Rowhani makes a stop in New York this week. He arrived to back up his negotiating team. As the former nuclear chief negotiator, Rowhani is aware of the importance of the opportunity Iran now faces.

There is now a little over seven weeks for a final deal to be reached. If significant progress is not made, the deal will not be reached by the deadline. Rowhani’s trip to the U.S. can therefore be seen as a smart attempt to boost the talks and inject energy into the process.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told PBS broadcasting network on Friday that bIran would accept Obama bypassing Congress to get sanctions lifted:
“If President Obama promises us to do something, we will accept and respect his promise.” Zarif told PBS.

As for whether the U.S. would hold out for the lifting of permanent sanctions against Iran, which requires congressional action, Zarif appeared amenable to President Barack Obama lifting less restrictive sanctions instead.

The New York talks are a landmark, face-saving diplomacy push to demonstrate that Iran intends to move towards a responsible and mature foreign policy.


Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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