By Iran Review
By Mehdi Mohammadi
As long as the P5+1 group – the US, the UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany – is concerned, the issue of the forthcoming negotiations between Iran and the group in Russia’s capital, Moscow, is quite clear. They will repeat what they already said in Baghdad in addition to posing harsher threats to Iran. For example, they will emphasize that in case negotiations fail, Iran will be faced with tougher sanctions by the European Union and the United States after June 30, 2012, when EU member states are to ban oil sales from Iran and transactions with the Iranian central bank. In other words, as evidenced by their current remarks, member states of the P5+1 have taken no serious measure in the interval between Baghdad and Moscow talks. They have only waited for some time to elapse before repeating their past remarks at a time which will be closer to June 30 deadline.
The question, however, which has remained unanswered, is if the P5+1 have made up their mind to repeat in Moscow what they had already told Iran in Baghdad talks, why they expect Iran to say anything in Moscow which would be different from the country’s positions in Baghdad negotiations?
Let’s remember what happened in Baghdad. First, Iran announced that it is ready to negotiate about enriching uranium to 20 percent level provided that firstly, it receives something proportionate in return, and secondly, the P5+1 will be ready to talk about recognizing Iran’s right to enrichment.
Negotiations were close to failure at the morning of Thursday, May 24, because member states of the P5+1 insisted that 20-percent enrichment should be the sole item on the talks agenda without accepting to include Iran’s right to uranium enrichment in that agenda. In the meantime, what the group had considered in return for Iran’s agreement to negotiate 20-percent enrichment was only good for a joke. Members of the P5+1 probably remember that it was at that point that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, clearly said he would undoubtedly declare the failure of Baghdad talks.
In fact, it was only after Jalili’s announcement that his counterpart in the P5+1 and European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, asked for more time. After an interval of about eight hours, she returned to the negotiating table along with representatives of other members of the P5+1 to announce that they have changed their mind and will include Iran’s proposed agenda in their final statement in addition to 20-percent enrichment.
The question is what may prevent Iran from repeating the same behavior in Moscow? In fact, the P5+1 seem to be much more concerned about possible failure of nuclear negotiations than Iran because in case of failure of Moscow talks, the group will be faced with unexpected and catastrophic consequences. The situation for Iran, on the other hand, will not be much different from the past.
Now, let’s assume that Moscow negotiations are sure to fail. What will happen then?
Without any doubt, the next thing to happen will be a powerful shock to global oil market which will cause Ms. Ashton to come under fire for having steered negotiations in such a way as to cause an abrupt hike in global oil prices.
This will also be a major election problem for Obama because he will be faced with more difficulty in his effort to control the United States’ shaky economy on the verge of elections. The American people will also have great doubts about Obama’s prowess in reining in the ongoing economic crisis in the United States.
A sudden increase in oil prices will also face European countries with serious internal tension. The fragile economy of eurozone, where countries depend on foreign debt for running their economic affairs, will be further undermined when European people witness the impact of economic pressures on Iran directly in their own homes.
The next problem is escalation of tensions among Iran’s adversaries. Israel will intensify its rhetoric against Iran – without being able to put its threats into action – and Obama will be helpless in the face of a serious dilemma: he should either try to manage internal economic situation of the United States, or find a convincing answer to blistering criticism from his Republican rivals.
In fact, it is very easy for Iran to withdraw from negotiations. Pressures on Iran cannot get more serious than they are right now. Oil sanctions which are scheduled for June 30 and July 13 (by the European Union and the United States, respectively) have already been enforced and Iran knows how to go around them. Meanwhile, Iran believes that threats about a military attack have never been anything more than a propaganda ploy to increase effectiveness of sanctions and getting Iran back to negotiating table.
Therefore, if the West wants to see successful negotiations in Moscow, it should stop dawdling in the short period of time which remains before forthcoming talks. Moscow negotiations can only be successful if they depict a clear perspective for the acceptance of Iran’s inalienable right, if the Americans offer Iran with something proportionately significant in return for Iran’s consent to negotiate 20-percent uranium enrichment, and if the P5+1 shows its readiness to take practical measures for the success of negotiations.
Mehdi Mohammadi, Expert on Nuclear Issues