What’s the deal, Rowhani?

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
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Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said he is considering finalizing nuclear deals in approximately one year. Zarif, fresh from his three weeks of intense meetings at the United Nations with foreign diplomats, called the trip a success.

“We wouldn’t negotiate for the sake of negotiation. We negotiate to reach a solution.” Zarif said in an interview with the state-owned Channel 2 on Saturday evening.

“I promise our people that we wouldn’t negotiate over our enrichment’s right. It is important for our national interest to prove that our nuclear program is peaceful,” he added.

Soon, Iran and P5+1 negotiation team (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) would meet in Geneva on Oct. 15-16 to discuss Iran’s controversial nuclear file. The nuclear discussion has been going on for more than 10 years – unsuccessfully – and this coming meeting is the first one since Hassan Rowhani became president.

Rowhani’s first priority is to improve living conditions of millions of Iranians who have been pulled into poverty and economic hardship because of the sanctions.

After 34 years, Iranians have learned that a smile and few nicer words in diplomacy make their presence more pleasant.

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Reaching this goal needs intensive and constructive talks with the P5+1 in order to prove the fact that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. Iran’s negotiations team has changed and the new team, which is leading with Zarif, is luckily skilled, positive and familiar with diplomatic dialogue.

Meanwhile, it sounds like hostile times between Iran and the U.S. could soon be over. It all began with a Twitter exchange between Zarif last month and the daughter of the House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Zarif in an answer to her question about Iran’s denial of Holocaust tweeted her back nicely with a greeting for the Jewish New Year. Zarif posted: “Iran never denied it. The man who did is now gone. Happy new year.”

This tweet can also be understood to mean that Iran is ready for a new beginning.

After 34 years, Iranians have learned that a smile and few nicer words in diplomacy make their presence more pleasant.

Rowhani’s promises

Rowhani has promised his people he will open up the closed doors, and one of these doors which has so much demands for its opening is relations with the U.S.

Clearly, Iran’s new government has seized the chance to warm up to the U.S. even with as little as a phone conversation between the two presidents to put end to this nuclear dispute.

When Ayatollah Khamenei spoke on Saturday morning with ambiguity about the talks and he sounded doubtful about Rowhani’s trip to United Nations, we shouldn’t take it seriously.

Ayatollah Khamenei is just preserving a safe exit in case the negotiators won’t reach an agreement, or if anything changes on the American side. Then, he’ll have enough excuses to stay away from the shame.

“We are supporting the current government and all their diplomatic efforts.” This was the most important thing Ayatollah Khamenei said on Saturday.

The supreme leader’s only concern is the outcome of these upcoming negotiations, which are going to take place in Geneva.

The possible deal

It is certain that what Iran has to offer to the P5+1 is not about shutting down enrichment facilities at Fordow or Arak. According to what we are hearing, it will most likely be that Iran may halt enrichment and reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium. In addition, Iran may sign additional protocols for giving unexpected visiting permission to U.N. nuclear inspectors.

The deal can’t only be about Iran’s nuclear program, as the war in Syria is another concern for the U.S. and Western countries. If Iran can “play a win, win game” (Zarif used this phrase on Saturday) with 5+1 by then many other doors would be open to Iran to play a bigger and greater role in the region including participation at an upcoming peace conference on Syria. The negotiations would be hard and difficult but at the same time it’s the only way for Iran to come back to the international community.

Iran has a long way to go to before fully tending to the damages caused by the sanctions and improving its image.

All eyes are now set on Oct.15 and 16 when Iran, at the ministerial level, would meet the members of P5+1. Zarif said that the old P5+1 proposal is part of history and this group has to negotiate with Iran with a fresh look.

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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