Where will the Muscat negotiations lead us?

If negotiators in Muscat allow Iran to pursue its nuclear program, we will enter a very dangerous phase

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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U.S. President Barack Obama seems enthusiastic about the beginning of a new era with Iran and the restoration of good relations with Tehran, which was once an important ally during the Shah’s rule and until his downfall. This is why Americans and Europeans are meeting with the Iranian delegation in the Omani capital as they race against time to reach a solution to the Iranian regime’s nuclear aspirations.

We in the Middle East have serious reservations about these negotiations and the first of them is the secrecy surrounding the talks! Obama’s administration intentionally kept its contacts and negotiations with Tehran a secret, even from its own regional allies. Such an approach contradicts with the usual American approach, such as the negotiations with North Korea. In that case, all concerned countries in the region shared their secrets and weighed in on the decision making process and countries like South Korea, Japan, China and Russia were involved in the negotiations alongside the American delegation. However, when it came to negotiations with Iran, the U.S. shut the door in the face of its allies and of other directly involved countries, like the Gulf countries, Turkey, Egypt and Israel.

Why is Obama so concerned with sealing a deal with Iran? There’s no logical reason

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Secondly, American reassurances that concessions will not be made have proven not to be true on several occasions. The last of these concessions was America’s acceptance of 1,500 uranium-enriching centrifuges after it said it won’t allow more than 500. This came in addition to a series of concessions Washington made in the field of boycotted and frozen assets.

Expanding influence

Thirdly, the Iranians made a comment regarding their demand to expand their influence in the region. Although Washington denies that it will accept such conditions, there are doubts prevailing in the region among those who worry that Iran will be left free to further sabotage the region. American stances in favor of Iran’s interests in Iraq and Syria strengthen these doubts. The most recent example was President Obama’s statement regarding Syria and his pledge to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) organization while refusing to punish the Syrian regime which is behind the crisis and which has killed more than a quarter of a million citizens and displaced more than eight million more.

Fourthly, there is the nuclear program itself. The U.S. seems to have backtracked on its pledge to prevent the Iranian regime from possessing the capability to produce nuclear weapons and this will lead to a change in the balance of power in the region in a very dangerous manner. We, as well as the West, are aware of the fact that Iran does not need nuclear energy to meet its energy needs because it holds the world’s fourth-largest proven crude oil reserves - that is more than Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. So why would Iran spend huge funds for nuclear energy when it can produce petroleum for a very low cost? It’s because Iran seeks to produce nuclear weapons and a country with such a mentality and persistence indicates it has dangerous and hostile intentions.

A dangerous phase

If negotiators in Muscat allow Iran to pursue its nuclear program, we will enter a very dangerous phase. The balance of regional power will be disrupted and this will force regional countries - mainly Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt - to look for means to build a deterrent nuclear power. This will make the Middle East region, which threatens the world with al-Qaeda and ISIS, more dangerous due to the presence of five nuclear countries including Iran and Israel. Why is Obama so concerned with sealing a deal with Iran? There’s no logical reason. We saw how American sanctions succeeded in exhausting the Iranian regime and led it to the point of Tehran thinking that its nuclear program may led to the collapse of the regime. However, the porthole which Obama’s administration opened for the regime in Tehran pushed the Americans, and not the Iranians, to present more concessions in exchange of promises from Khamenei’s regime. These promises are not based on halting the nuclear program but only slow down its implementation. We don’t criticize the negotiations because we refuse that Western countries reach an agreement that ends the crisis with Iran. Any agreement that tames the hostile Iranian political mentality and disarms its nuclear weapons serves the interest of the entire region. However, we do not think that the suggested agreement curbs these nuclear aspirations and it does not deter the chaotic mentality which Tehran has practiced non-stop since the 1980s. What gives doubts is that the Americans have distanced regional countries from the negotiations with Iran and have exchanged secret messages - as exposed by the Israelis who revealed that secret communiqués have been exchanged with the Iranian supreme leader himself. At the same time, we also see how Washington adopts stances that are biased toward Iran in Syria and Iraq!

Muscat’s negotiations hint that an agreement may be reached before the November 24 deadline for a nuclear deal, an agreement that may alter the region’s history if it is to be reached.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on November 11, 2014.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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