By Iran Review
By Mehdi Mohammadi
When the question is asked about what results are expected from negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, perhaps the most important issue is to see what the word “result” means? In other words, one of the most important and yet, the least unexplored, issues about Iran’s nuclear case is when they talk about a solution to the nuclear issue, there is no single and common understanding of this concept among member states of the P5+1 and every one of them has its own special view.
On the eve of the forthcoming negotiations between Tehran and the P5+1 in Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad, it will be very important to have a clear understanding of these differences. Only through that understanding we can see whether it is logical to expect a solution to the nuclear standoff come out of the future talks. If one could find a common denominator among these diverse viewpoints, the outlook for finding a solution would be bright. Otherwise, regardless of how Iran behaves in the negotiations, the problem would not be amenable to a solution because any formula proposed will be rejected by certain parties and the P5+1 will never reach a consensus. Let’s begin with the United States. What do the Americans mean when they talk about Iran’s nuclear issue? A cursory glance at the remarks made by the American statesmen, as reflected by their own media, as well as analyses provided by the Western sources will easily show that from an American viewpoint, a solution to Iran’s nuclear issue can only be achieved when it is defined within a security and geopolitical framework which would not pose any threat to vital interests of the United States. Perhaps, this seems to be too general, but it is not possible to look at it more accurately. It should be looked upon just as general as it is.
There are two important questions which should be answered by the Americans in this regard. Firstly, does uranium enrichment under the Safeguards Agreement in Iran pose a threat to their vital interests or not? Until recently, the American officials categorically announced that uranium enrichment cannot be part of a peaceful nuclear program and finding any solution to Iran’s nuclear standoff depended on total halt of the country’s uranium enrichment activities. Existing signs, however, show that the US officials have changed that position. There are also clear indications that out of two concepts of uranium enrichment and building nuclear weapons, they are ready to shift their red line from the first to the second one. Although it is obvious that such a change has already taken place in Washington’s position, it cannot be taken seriously as long as it has not been publicly announced.
The second question is whether it is possible for Iran and the United States to achieve a common understanding of security and geopolitical arrangements as long as the United States adapts its security interests to those of Israel and has not given up its announced policy of regime change in Iran? There is a powerful opinion in Iran which says the United States does not look upon the nuclear issue as a military or security concern, but is trying to use it as a pretext to promote its regime change policy in Iran and impose its own purported security arrangements on different power blocs in the world. If this is true, will it be essentially in the US benefit to solve the nuclear issue of Iran?
Conducting meaningful and serious negotiations requires logical answers to these questions first. Of course, this statement is not accurate enough. Even now, the answers to these questions are clearly known. The problem is “has the United States become ready to give different answers to these questions after the lapse of three decades?” This is the main issue which will determine the fate of forthcoming talks between Iran and the P5+1.
Russia and China constitute the next bloc. As long as Iran’s nuclear case is involved, the two countries can be considered a single bloc with the only exception that none of them will stand its ground without the other. Both countries believe that Iran’s nuclear issue will be only solved when all questions posed by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are finished. To achieve that point, the best way is for the West to give up its regime change policy toward Iran. Iran, on the other hand, must be assured that it will receive a real and objective score point in return for every measure that it takes in cooperation with IAEA to solve outstanding issues related to its nuclear energy program.
Meanwhile, Russia and China are against proliferation of nuclear weapons, not only by Iran, but by any country which may want to change the current composition of the world’s existing nuclear club. The point, however, is that they never believed that Iran seeks to build nuclear weapons and have always pointed out that the evidence provided by the Western intelligence agencies to prove that Iran is building nuclear arms has not been convincing. The most outright conclusion which comes out of this analysis is that from the viewpoint of Russia and China, accepting enrichment in Iran and moving toward the removal of international sanctions must be an indispensable part of any possible solution to Iran’s nuclear case.
Russia and China have different viewpoints on the best way to carry out negotiations with Iran as compared to the US and Europe bloc. In terms of method, the US has always believed that pressure is a necessary component of every diplomatic effort to solve Iran’s nuclear issue. The US statesmen presume that pressure will strengthen negotiations and will make Iran show more resilience in its approaches. Russia and China, however, maintain that this kind of approach does not conform to historical experience of negotiations with Iran. In historical terms, every time that Iran comes under higher pressure, negotiations have become less constructive while Iran’s nuclear program has gained more momentum. Therefore, if the main goal is moving toward a solution, a two-track approach should be replaced by a step-by-step approach in which threats to increase pressure on Iran in case negotiations fail will give way to a more encouraging approach which will focus on reduction of pressures in case of progress in negotiations.
There is, however, a point of ambiguity about Russia’s and China’s treatment of Iran: both countries look at Iran’s nuclear case a bargaining chip in negotiations with the West. Therefore, as soon as a profitable deal is proposed to them, they are apt to easily change course. In other words, this mentality has been totally established about Russia and China that their basic approach to Iran’s nuclear case is based on dealing with the West. They only resist the West when the outlook of such a deal seems bleak. As a result, although the general performance of China and Russia on Iran’s nuclear case has been greatly positive, it has been constantly overshadowed by a historical doubt.
The European Union is the next bloc whose approach to Iran’s nuclear case is as different from the United States as it is from Russia’s and China’s approach. The European bloc maintains that any possible solution to Iran’s nuclear issue should be based on two main principles: 1. Avoiding military confrontation; and 2. Compliance with the Security Council’s resolutions. This European approach basically lacks independence as every one of those principles has been borrowed from other places. As such, Europe’s emphasis on avoiding direct military confrontation with Iran stems from their inaccurate analysis of Israel’s military capabilities and believing in Tel Aviv’s anti-Iran bluffs. Also, their insistence on compliance with the Security Council resolutions is an American idea. There is another important point which should be mentioned here. Although Europe claims to be following its own independent policy in this case, it is in fact following suit with the US and Israel’s policies. Therefore, it practically has no serious standing in Iran’s nuclear negotiations.
The last block is the Zionist regime of Israel. Here, it will be most accurate to say that Zionists actually don’t consider Iran’s nuclear program as their main concern. They know that they cannot face Iran on their own and, therefore, they are thinking of a way to forge maximum international consensus against Tehran. The best solution, from the viewpoint of Israel, is to keep Iran’s nuclear problem unsolved and use it as a permanent tool to change the international atmosphere against Iran. As far as Israel is concerned, for example, with regard to Baghdad negotiations, continuation of strict sanctions and making sure about enforcement of new US and EU sanctions against Iran, which are expected to enter into force in June and July, respectively, is more important than finding any solutions to Iran’s nuclear issue through negotiations. Therefore, Zionists basically do not believe in the concept of finding a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear problem and the best solution, in their eyes, is not to find any solution at all.
The general environment of negotiations with Iran is currently a hodge-podge of these scenarios. Therefore, as long as the Western sides are not able to solve their differences among themselves, they will be undoubtedly unable to solve their problem with Iran as well.
Mehdi Mohammadi, Expert on Nuclear Issues