MIDDLE EAST DOSSIER: Iran and P5+1 Take One More Step Toward Mutual Confidence Building

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Image credit: Iran ReviewBy Hassan Beheshtipour* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

TEHRAN  - The fourth round of negotiations between representatives of Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers (USA, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany), which ended on October 16, 2013, was a great leap ahead for both sides and a solid measure aimed at mutual trust building.


The two-day talks in Geneva were very remarkable for the Iranian side because serious negotiations had gotten underway again after a hiatus of several months. By offering a new proposal which was too attractive for the Western states to reject, Iran proved that it is ready to reach a comprehensive and complete understanding with the West over its peaceful nuclear energy program.

From the viewpoint of the Western countries, Iran's plan and its focus on the main details was very considerable because it showed that if the West recognized Iran's right to enrich uranium on its soil, Iran would be ready to increase transparency of its nuclear activities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In this way, the West would not have any doubt that Iran is merely following uranium enrichment within framework of peaceful nuclear activities.

It was clear since the very outset that due to profound distrust on both sides, an agreement could not be expected to be reached within one or two sessions of intense negotiations. Therefore, the fact that both sides agreed to issue a joint statement after six years of talks, was indicative of their will to open a new road for confidence building.

It seems that establishment of three specialized committees to delve into the scientific aspects of the case, sanctions, and disarmament was a basic strategy, which will pave the way for preliminary measures that will be taken following the next round of talks which have been scheduled to be held three weeks later in Geneva.

The three committees are supposed to provide grounds for the removal of anti-Iran sanctions, determine the quality of future nuclear cooperation between the two sides and also to discuss ways of making sure about the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities. The result of their work will be offered to the next meeting between Iran and the P5+1 as an official report.

Ten steps

From a logical viewpoint, in order for the next round of talks to be successful, the following measures should be taken:

1. Both sides should accept that the obligations should be mutual and balanced. That is, if an agreement is to be reached in a win-win manner, commitments should be bilateral and, as much as possible, equal in importance. In that case, there would be hope in the accurate implementation of such an agreement.

2. Both sides are going to move toward each other in an effort to build trust. Therefore, nobody can expect one side to stand motionless and wait for the other side to take the next steps. Naturally, “cooperation” could only come true and continue through “synergy” between the two sides.

3. Curbing the existing opposition on both sides in order to prevent such opposition from negatively affecting the agreements is an unavoidable must for the continuation of future cooperation. Of course, it is clear that nobody can muffle opposition, but the opposition can be managed properly if the two sides actually believe in the progress of their work.

4. If trust building steps start with the recognition of Iran's right to enrich uranium, they will help to cut the Gordian knot of the negotiations in the shortest possible time.

5. Iran's proposed plan has envisaged three stages which are inseparable and should be carried out in a step by step manner. That is, implementation of each stage depends on the full implementation of the previous one. In this model, progress in any stage will build trust for the implementation of the next stages by both sides. Therefore, there could be no concern about non-implementation of any of these three stages because both sides will only set out to implement every stage when they have made sure about the completion of the previous stage.

6. Iran's proposed plan is so comprehensive and complete that the opposite party has no pretext to oppose it. It has provided logical answers to questions about what should be done by each party in which manner and in what period of time. Therefore, failure of this plan will make it clear for everybody that what people and for what reasons are not willing to achieve a logical, comprehensive and complete agreement with Iran over its proposed plan.

7. By proposing a timed plan, Iran will strip the Western media of their usual propaganda claim about Iran trying to kill time and buy more time in order to finish its nuclear work. Therefore, the time is ripe for the Western side to take advantage of this historical opportunity, discard the policy of “negotiation for negotiation” and once and for all, try to achieve a final agreement with Iran according to a serious schedule.

8. It is imperative for the West to replace its past erroneous policy of “negotiations and pressure” with a new policy of “cooperation and negotiations” when the process of confidence building is complete. Such an approach will lead to sustainability and continuation of any agreement coming out of the negotiations.

9. Undoubtedly, putting an end to the imposition of new sanctions against Iran and removal of the previous ones would be possible on the order of [the US President Barack] Obama. This will further improve the atmosphere of future negotiations and will provide the Iranian team of negotiators with more maneuvering room in order to achieve new and more important agreements. This measure will also send a clear message to Tehran about the extent to which the United States is ready to correct its erroneous policies of the past.

10. Iran and member states of the P5+1 have found the path to constructive interaction and achieving a lingua franca. So, in order to avert facing new obstacles on this tortuous path, they should use the past as a guide for building a better future. Although past experiences have been bitter and difficult, both sides have learnt good lessons from them.

Iran's new proposal has paved the way for further progress in negotiations. It seems that the time is ripe for a comprehensive agreement between Iran and the West and we can almost hope that Israel’s obstructionist measures would not be able to take the new situation to the state of limbo which existed in the past.

The West knows that if the new opportunity is lost, it would not be repeated. If Iran's “heroic resilience,” which aims to verity the true intent of the United States and its allies, is understood wrongly, a new round of confrontation will take the place of constructive interaction. In that case, both sides would be caught in a lose-lose game.

*A researcher, documentary producer, and expert on nuclear issues, Hassan Beheshtipour was born on June 22, 1961 in Tehran. He received his BA in Trade Economics from Tehran University. His research topics span from U.S. and Russian foreign policy to the Ukrainian Orange Revolution. This article, which was published on October 19 in Iran Review, is being is being reproduced by arrangement with them. [IDN-InDepthNews – October 21, 2013]

Picture credit: Iran Review

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