July 24, 2013

«The Six» Are Getting Ready for Negotiations

Members of the group of mediators on Iran (the five UN Security Council members: Russia, China, USA, UK, France and Germany) are ready for the next round of negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program in the nearest future, as soon as the Iranian side is ready.

This statement was made immediately after the meeting of representatives of the “Six” in Brussels on the 16th of July. The meeting confirmed the wish of all participants to continue seeking a comprehensive political and diplomatic settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue on the basis of reciprocity, in particular, taking into consideration the statements of the new President of Iran Hassan Rouhani.

At an early resumption of talks with Tehran counts also the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.

“Of course, we are now waiting for the appointment of the negotiating group from Iran. We do hope that this happens soon, and we are looking forward to meeting with them as soon as possible“, Ashton said after the meeting of political directors of the “Six” in Brussels. According to Ashton, participants of the meeting in Brussels stated their positions and exchanged views on how to move forward in seeking a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.

Let us remind you, that the efforts of the international community are aimed at the suspension of Iran's enrichment of uranium to 20 percent.

According to available information, the next meeting of the “Six” with Iran will be held not earlier than the scheduled on August 3 inauguration of the new President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani, the formation of the new government of the country and determination of the composition of the Iranian delegation at the talks on the nuclear issue.

Previous talks with the “Six” were led by the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Saeed Jalili, who was only the fourth in the Presidential elections in Iran, which fact, according to Catherine Ashton, is directly related to the fact that “the negotiations go in a circle and, correspondingly, the sanctions only accumulate, and the Iranian people are already tired”.

It should be added that the newly elected President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, coming to office on the 4th of August, has already made a number of statements, perceived by Western media as signals of liberalization of political life in Iran after 8 years of conservative government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Thus, the new Head of the state has called for the lifting of restrictions on the Internet, weakening of the domestic censorship and a general “thaw” of the political life of the country, to which many observers refer as to a “police state”. As for the fate of the nuclear program, Tehran may go on to consider different options of international mediation — from transfer of enrichment of uranium to other countries, to allowing IAEA experts to inspect Iran's new nuclear facilities.

A reaction to Rouhani’s statements was an open letter to the White House of more than a hundred of U.S. Lawmakers demanding to actively use diplomatic channels to establish contacts with Iran. The Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy of Majlis of Iran plans to soon consider this letter. “The change in the approach of the U.S. Congressmen should be discussed”, — said the Chairman for Foreign Policy and National Security of the Parliament Alaeddin Boroujerdi. — “The change of attitudes on the part of U.S. congressmen and sending a letter to President Barack Obama are significant moments that the Committee will discuss in order to reach a consensus on whether this approach is temporary or not.”

He also stressed that the change in the approach of U.S. Congressmen in a short period of time, indicates lack of stability and proper decision-making capacity among officials in the United States.

One should understand that Rouhani's statements were dictated, first of all, by the complicated domestic and foreign policy position in which Iran found itself after the previous President. Economic sanctions, particularly the refusal of Europe from Iranian oil, have led to sharp falling of the national currency and destabilization of the economy. For some categories of consumer goods previously imported from Western countries, the Iranians have felt a serious shortage. All this, coupled with a rigid policy of suppression of dissent in the press and search for “foreign agents” (especially from Israel and the USA) have led to the fact that the patience of the people was exhausted, and the Presidential election was won by Hassan Rouhani, supported by majority of the people.

In this connection it is appropriate to announce that on the 15th of July, the Committee on Sanctions against Iran presented a report which makes it clear that the experts of the UN Security Council failed to reach a consensus on the Iranian ballistic missile launches, “Shahab-1” and “Shahab-3” in the course of the 2012 trainings “Great Prophet-7”, and which does not specify whether the UN resolutions had been violated. According to the ninth paragraph of the Resolution № 1929 of 2010, the UN Security Council, inter alia, decided that “Iran will not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology”. A number of members expressed the view that these launches were a violation of Resolution № 1929, and in this regard, UN member countries should redouble their efforts to enforce sanctions against Iran's ballistic missile program. “At this stage, some members of the Committee cannot share that point of view”, — said the Permanent Representative of Australia, Gary Quinlan, the Chairman of the Expert Committee, and promised in the near future to provide an updated report to the Security Council. Several countries were against further pressure on Iran, especially because the currently elected President Hassan Rouhani has promised greater transparency on the Iranian nuclear program. Thus, according to the Iranian news agency IRNA, the Chinese delegation pointed out that further sanctions against Iran would only complicate the problem, and that diplomatic efforts are needed. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of China stressed that representatives of 6 Western countries and Iran, having strengthened the relationship and mutual trust, should as soon as possible begin a new round of nuclear talks.

Having pointed out that Beijing always stands for peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue, he said that in the current situation, China, while continuing to maintain contact and coordination with various parties, will play a constructive role in advancing the process of peaceful negotiations.

The Russian delegation stressed that conclusions and assessments of Iran's activity “should be based only on reliable and verifiable information”.

The United States also recognized the importance of diplomacy, having pointed out that “only the full implementation of sanctions will show Iran what the price of non-fulfillment of its obligations is”. Amid all of the above mentioned, quite understandably became Washington's appeal to the international community to “act with doubled efforts” in order to prevent Tehran's creation of weapons of mass destruction.

This is the first statement after coming to power in Iran of the Reformist President Hassan Rouhani. From all this it follows that the United States does not intend to soften their anti-Iranian stance. This is confirmed by Washington's active support to the submitted to the Sanctions Committee report of the experts of the UN Security Council. In this regard, the Acting U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Rosemary Di Carlo made a strong statement against Iran, charging it with a long list of charges. Apart from launching missiles, the USA is accusing Iran of developing uranium enrichment programs that contradict resolutions of the United Nations, helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanon-based radical Shia group “Hezbollah”. “As long as Iran does not give substantive answers to all proposals of the “six”, we will be committed to strengthening of isolation and pressure on the country”, — warned Ms Di Carlo, calling on the international community to “act with doubled efforts”.

The United States and the immediately having supported it Israel again and again put forward almost unacceptable demands before the start of the next round of negotiations between the “Six” and Iran. At this, they threat with applying new sanctions if Iran fails to meet these demands. Here we may point out two things:

First of all, there is nothing new in the behavior of Washington — a new President, new approaches and therefore it makes sense to try to put pressure on him. As in any diplomatic bargaining, the parties begin the process with mutually unacceptable conditions, in order to later make certain concessions. Will Rouhani withstand? Most likely, he will. But he will have to agree to some concessions. Most likely, to the expansion of the list of objects to which IAEA inspectors will be let. First of all this concerns Parchin, where they have long sought to get into. Washington has repeatedly used the refusal of the Iranian side in the inspection of this facility as a reason to tighten its position.

The second point that should be noted in connection with the new tightening of the U.S. position is its direct hints at strengthening the regime of sanctions. There is no need to repeat again that all previous sanctions regimes have failed. In any case, they could not force Iran to make concessions. This, in turn, raises the questions about the effectiveness of such approaches. Indeed, sanctions have created serious problems for Iran, but we can say that most of them Iran got due to not entirely successful experiments of the previous President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Among the country's problems, sanctions are playing though important, but still a secondary role. The United States’ threats show that they have no other tools to put pressure on Iran, apart from force options. The tools that are available in the arsenal of Washington, do not have a decisive influence on the policy of the Iranian government. Iran has convincingly proved that it may care not too much about possible threats from the USA and Israel. In today's situation, when Washington cannot afford a military solution to the Iranian problem, all their other options just “hang”.

Israel is more radical. In an interview with CBS Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the new President of Iran as “a wolf in sheep's clothing, who smiles while creating an atomic bomb”. “Obama and I have talked about the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. After the election it is particularly important to convey to Iran the immutability of this position”, — said Netanyahu. According to him, Tehran should know that if sanctions do not work, Israel will take military actions without the approval of the United States. “In our case, the clock runs faster. We are more vulnerable, and we will have to give an answer to the question of how to stop Iran before the United States do it”, — said the Prime Minister.

The tightening of the US-Israeli rhetoric contrasts sharply with the position of Moscow, which questioned the validity of recent claims against Iran formulated in the UN Security Council experts report, and together with China blocked the introduction of new sanctions. “It is necessary to avoid hasty conclusions that are not based on reliable and verifiable information”, called the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian federation Pyotr Ilyichyov.

It is safe to assume that the Iranian government clearly understands the situation, and a fundamental change in its position at the next meeting with the “Six” is not going to happen.