The expiry date stamped on nuclear negotiations

It seems both parties, Iran and the U.S., understand the fragility of the Geneva agreement

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
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Iran will resume its nuclear negotiations with Western parties on Thursday in Vienna after talks were halted by Tehran a week ago because it was angry that the U.S. expanded sanctions against it and blacklisted more companies and people.

According to the Geneva Agreement sealed on November 24 between Iran and the P5+1 group, Iran will work on restraining its controversial nuclear program in exchange of decreasing the sanctions imposed on it. Based on this, imposing any additional sanctions on Iran during the phase of the temporary agreement, which is set to last six months, can be considered a violation of the agreement.

American legislators included 19 Iranian individuals and companies on the updated sanctions list. But, despite Iran’s threat to reject the Geneva agreement, both parties will resume negotiations on Thursday in Austria.

Vienna’s talks are aimed at discussing technicalities and the issue of sanctions in order to prepare the implementation plan for the political agreement both parties reached in Geneva.

The upcoming talks may be more important than the agreement reached in November.

In this context, rejecting technical talks between both parties can be translated as a violation of the Geneva agreement and as a failure to peacefully resolve the Iranian nuclear program.

Despite the disappointment due to imposing new sanctions on Iran, Vienna’s meetings reveal the seriousness and importance of these talks for the U.S. and Iran. Both parties know well that if their work and cooperation is not possible during this early phase of talks, then it is impossible to hold more talks and thus it’s impossible to ensure future negotiations.

What makes negotiations relatively easier is that Iran is directly holding talks with American negotiators without any mediators. Talks can resume because Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif directly called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Also, Zarif told CBC television last Sunday that “the process of holding discussions stopped but did not reach a dead end. We are trying to re-hold these talks, correct their path and resume negotiations because there are many [important] issues that concern all parties.”

It seems both parties, Iran and the U.S., understand the fragility of the Geneva agreement. It seems they both understand that they must make efforts to exert domestic pressure if they want these negotiations to succeed. Conservatives in Iran patiently await the collapse of these negotiations and they do so by accusing the U.S. of violating the Geneva agreement. Zarif accurately clarified that he is following up on implementing the policy which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei desires, adding that altering this policy at some point means putting the negotiations on a path the supreme leader desires.

The upcoming talks may be more important than the agreement reached in November

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Zarif has also voiced fears, felt by himself and President Hassan Rowhani, of the U.S. possibly and repeatedly violating the Geneva agreement. It’s certain that the government in Iran and the U.S. are subject to great pressure by the conservatives. Both governments must launch campaigns, on the domestic and international levels, in order for these talks to succeed. As for the U.S., polls revealed the Americans’ consent of their government’s policy regarding the discussions with Iran on its nuclear program. Polls also showed that Americans are against the issue of military confrontation.

Amidst the lack of such accurate polls in Iran, due to the supervision imposed by the government, it seems that the majority of Iranians desire better relations with the countries of the world and desire that a peaceful solution is reached with the West regarding the nuclear program.

The available opportunities for Rowhani and his team to lead negotiations at the time being are related to the credibility they attained following the elections. The conservatives, however, have not stopped pressuring the new president and his team as they await the momentum to re-emerge in the political arena. Rowhani’s government is aware that the time available for these negotiations is limited. The same applies to the U.S., but in a different way. If Iran and the U.S. fail to resolve this issue in the short term, the talks’ future will be full of risks of failure and allowing conservatives to have the last word. Therefore, both parties are aware that the opportunity will not always be available.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 21, 2013.


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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