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Iranian nuclear problem talks: coming to terms will be ever harder

November 25, 2014, 16:37 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
(L-R) Geman Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the talks in Vienna

(L-R) Geman Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the talks in Vienna

© EPA/ROLAND SCHLAGER

MOSCOW, November 25. /TASS/. No agreement on the Iranian nuclear program has been achieved within the expected deadline. Experts believe that clinching a deal will be ever harder in view of the internal political situation in the United States and the oil price slump.

Iran and the international mediators (Russia, the United States, Britain, China, France and Germany) on Monday failed to produce an agreement on settling the Iranian nuclear problem. In fact, the negotiations ended inconclusively: instead of a comprehensive settlement, the negotiators agreed to extend last year’s interim arrangements concluded in Geneva a year ago, till July 1 and to try to finalize a framework document within three or four months’ time. Tehran and the Sextet tried to formulate guarantees of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions. The differences are revolving around the maximum permissible number of centrifuges (the West is demanding they should be reduced from 9,000 to 5,000) and the future of the heavy water reactor in Arak. The issue of sanctions is another fundamental issue: Tehran is demanding they should be cancelled instantly, while the West is arguing that only the gradual lifting of sanctions will guarantee Iran will stick to its obligations.

Sources acknowledge that the contracting parties have proved unable to produce a final settlement chiefly because they have no confidence in each other. “The accumulated distrust was the main hurdle. The distrust is mutual, but mostly it is distrust towards Iran,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said. The Western countries keep arguing they have no suitable guarantees the Iranian nuclear program will not go military.

Experts are very reserved about the outlook for the negotiating process.

Senior research fellow at the Center for Arab Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Oriental Studies Institute Boris Dolgov is very pessimistic about its chances to succeed. The process of negotiations is under the influence of a whole number of factors, including the fear the lifting of sanctions from Iran will push up its oil export and trigger an oil price slump, Dolgov told TASS in an interview. Besides, one should bear in mind the situation inside the United States, where the Republicans, whose attitude towards Iran is far harsher than Obama’s, have gained control of Congress, which is now going to consider stricter sanctions against Tehran.

At the same time, as Dolgov said, the factors that emerged in the early days of the crisis over the Iranian nuclear program are still there. The greatest of them is the fundamental reluctance of the United States and Israel to recognize Iran’s right to develop its own nuclear program. Both countries are emphatically against Iran gaining more strength and turning into a regional center of power. Israel sees Iran as a deadly threat. It is one of the firmest opponents of Iran’s nuclear status and of the possibility that status may be recognized by the United States.

Nevertheless, the talks are in progress, the analyst said. Obama, he explained, is keenly interested in a diplomatic victory contributing to his image of a peacekeeper, while Europe would like to see the lifting of sanctions with Iran, as their cooperation with that country spells many economic benefits. “Russia has been trying to be more active in the negotiating process, too, but one has to acknowledge that it is a backstage player. The main actor in the limelight is the United States.”

With the passage of time forging a deal will be ever more difficult, though. The United States’ future president will surely take a far harder line than Obama.

Although formally Iran is conducting talks with a Sextet of international mediators, in reality the negotiations are between Iran and the United States, says Fyodor Lukyanov, the chairman of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council’s presidium. Lukyanov, too, feels no optimism about the chances of an early settlement. “Without fundamental understanding between Teheran and Washington, without mutual trust the other participants will be unable to do anything in the current situation,” Lukyanov told a news conference in Baku. “In the situation as it is, neither Europe nor Russia will manage to persuade Iran and the United States to trust each other.”

“Iran wishes to come to terms with the West in earnest, however, Teheran cannot but ask what Washington can do in the end? Even if the Obama Administration concludes some agreement, will it be unable to enforce it in view of the firm opposition from Congress and anti-Iranian sentiment in the US establishment,” Lukyanov asked.

Inside Iran itself there is no confidence in the West, in particular, from the country’s Supreme Leader, Lukyanov said. Also, Tehran suspects, not without a reason, that the United States these days needs Iran to a far greater extent that the other way round, bearing in mind the situation in the Middle East, where Washington finds it ever harder to push ahead with its policy with no allies to count on.

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