By Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh, Executive Editor of Iran Review
The recent nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group in Istanbul have, according to many experts, opened a new chapter in the developments of the Iranian nuclear issue. Perhaps it was the first time both sides confirmed the positive atmosphere of negotiations, emphasized the need to enhance mutual confidence and reduce tensions, and expressed optimism about the future talks. It was indeed the first time the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) so evidently constituted the principal focus and pivot of negotiations while both sides tried to base their views upon the rights and obligations stipulated in the treaty. To be sure, such a development is the product of a new set of circumstances which have surrounded both by Iran and P5+1 countries. I have given a brief account of these new circumstances in a recent comment piece. Still, one should note that the efforts of both sides to focus reasonably upon each other’s weak and strong points and refrain from attaching too much importance to the role of media had rendered the ambience of this round of talks different.
In spite of this and regardless of the content of these negotiations, about which no credible story has yet been reported, maintaining the newly created positive atmosphere until the second round of negotiations, namely the nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1 in Baghdad on 23 May, is of great importance. These days, a look at news headlines run by certain media outlets as well as at the statements made by the officials of certain countries clearly suggest a “current” at work which seeks to reverse the current trend of negotiations by any means possible. This is perhaps why one should pay special attention to the following three points until the next round of nuclear talks:
1) From now until 23 May, when the second round of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group will be held in Baghdad, one needs to beware of two groups of analysts and experts. First, those commentators who resort to any means to belittle and understate the agreements reached between Iran and P5+1 in Istanbul or who try to portray the negotiations as an attempt by the Iranian side to buy time, deceive the public opinion and stuff like that.
Second, those people who strive to arouse suspicions about the results of these negotiations by persuading their audience to believe that Iran was the major loser of the talks and the other side managed, by virtue of shrewd and clever behavior, to emerge as the ultimate victor and win the day. For sure, these two groups will step up their efforts day by day and will try to promote their views so much so that they would considerably influence the attitudes and opinions of nuclear negotiators in the Baghdad meeting. The hasty remarks uttered by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the miscellaneous comments made by some experts in the United States and European countries - who have already been spending a good deal of their time and energy stressing the necessity of ratcheting up sanctions against Iran and constructing scenarios about the methods of US or Israeli strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities - are but two examples that endorse the above argument.
After all, the chief negotiators of both sides had most probably anticipated such a problem and have thus refused to publicize the content of their agreements in the media. It is vital to allow the newly reached agreements gain ground and find the opportunity to develop. In particular, the agreements that have been reached after the prevalence of a heavy atmosphere caused by months of increasing mistrust, the unconventional intensification of sanctions and the powerful influence of historical mentalities are noteworthy and valuable in themselves regardless of their results.
2) One should take into consideration the degree to which surrounding and regional variables impact upon and intervene in the results of nuclear negotiations. If Kofi Annan’s six-point plan come to fruition and succeeds in calming the situation in Syria, then a degree of peace and tranquility will prevail, through temporarily, in the region. Such a calm along with the reduction of tensions over the Iranian nuclear issue can ease the strained atmosphere which has been prevailing in the region over the past two years and is becoming, in one way or another, an inseparable part of the Middle East geopolitics, an ameliorated state of affairs which is unfortunately unacceptable to some circles and actors.
Those actors who are seeking to protect their security by fostering instability in their neighbours and entangling them constantly in their internal challenges, those senators who have made intensification of economic sanctions against Iran a part of their daily business, or those who are trying to undermine the power and influence of other actors in the region through forging fragile coalitions and pretending to defend democracy will not be happy with the aforementioned developments in Iran’s nuclear issue. Such people and players will accordingly thwart any progress in the nuclear negotiations in ordinary circumstances and ignore it at the most optimistic, thus refusing to help promote and further this ideal state of affairs.
This is why we should brace ourselves for the types of analysis and reports which depict Kofi Annan’s six-point plan in Syria as a failed attempt, call for the expansion of international sanctions against the Islamic Republic, underscore their claims about human rights violations in Iran, highlight ethnic or religious differences or even border disputes between the regional countries, and finally strive to suggest that the establishment of stability and peace in the Middle East is an impossible wish. This way of thinking can even lead to the escalation of insecurity, for instance bombings, in Baghdad, which is mainly aimed at showing that Baghdad is not a safe and secure place for future nuclear negotiations between Iran and P5+1 and that any negotiation, agreement or measure to improve the general situation in the region will finally prove futile and get nowhere.
3) As William H. Luers and Thomas R. Pickering argued in a piece published in New York Times over two months ago, it should be entirely clear what exactly members of the P5+1, Iran and, above all, both sides together want in the process. During the Istanbul talks, both Iran had one of its crucial demands, namely the P5+1 group’s recognition of its right to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, fulfilled, and the West managed to pursue the issue of conducting intensive inspections of Iranian nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). If such issues as securing the safe transfer of energy and helping to establish peace and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan are both sides’ common demands, then planning to find plausible ways of achieving these goals and putting them formally on the agenda during the Baghdad negotiations can serve as a robust foundation for the perpetuation of the current positive and constructive atmosphere.
It is perhaps for the first time in several past years that one sees the realization of the true meaning of diplomacy, that is, diplomacy as negotiations to enable both sides involved to reach their maximum goals. In this sense, diplomacy is in contradiction with the American and European definition of the term, which holds that anything except for war is diplomacy, even if it consists of sanctions they themselves describe as “crippling.”
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