Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1241, (9-15 April 2015)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1241, (9-15 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Success in Lausanne

The achievements of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif in negotiating this week’s agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme could not have happened without the support of the country’s supreme leader, writes Camelia Entekhabifard in Lausanne

Al-Ahram Weekly

Much of the reporting on the talks between Iran and the P5+1 Group of the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany over Iran’s nuclear programme has focused on Mohamed Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and top nuclear negotiator in his role at the nuclear talks, ignoring the role of the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards.

There is no doubt that Zarif’s world-class diplomatic skills and experience, together with his US education, have been key elements in his success. However, the achievements of the foreign minister and his team could not have been earned had Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards not supported Zarif in his work.

The framework agreement which was nailed down in Lausanne on 2 April gives Iran and the P5+1 Group the opportunity to seal a comprehensive deal in the next three months. However, the deal, dealing only with Iran’s nuclear programme, in reality also involves power shifts in the region and policy changes for Iran.

The suspension of the sanctions which have damaged Iran’s economy is a crucial demand before the final deal occurs and a vital element in the negotiations.

Today, negotiation with the West and particularly with the United States, considered a taboo in Iran not long ago, is a normal thing. But the success seen in Lausanne would not have been gained so easily had Khamenei not approved the talks and given his agreement to the framework agreement.

In a message to the supreme leader on 6 April, Iranian armed forces chief of staff Hassan Firouzabdai congratulated the nuclear negotiating team and thanked President Hassan Rouhani and other officials, especially Zarif, for their great efforts in the nuclear talks.

This came as a surprise for many observers, who had seen the military as a threat to the nuclear talks and agreement with the US. But Firouzabadi in his open letter thanked the supreme leader, the Rouhani administration and the negotiating team for “another step” taken in realising the “absolute right” of the Islamic Republic to a nuclear programme.

More than the Lausanne Agreement, which guarantees the final deal with the West within three months and before the 1 July deadline, the armed forces chief’s letter guarantees that the deal would be sealed by the deadline. The approval could encourage Rouhani’s government and Zarif to expand their policy of engagement with the country’s neighbours once they have reached the comprehensive nuclear agreement.

In a live state TV interview on 4 April, Zarif tried to assure Iran’s neighbours that his government’s priority was good relations with its neighbours. “We don’t want anything other than our rights. No bomb, no hegemony in the region, and good relations with our neighbors. We have so much in common with our neighbours. Why are our friends in the region worried that we are solving our problems? Their security is our security,” Zarif said.

If this policy is what has been adopted by the supreme leader, it means that Iran will invest in the future in trade and diplomacy. Limiting the role of the Revolutionary Guards and the Al-Quds Force by putting them under the supervision of the government could lead to further transformation by establishing Iran as an accountable country in the region.

Meanwhile, jubilant Iranians poured into the streets of Iran when they learned of the Lausanne Agreement, indicating to the leadership much about their wishes and hopes for the future. The framework for a nuclear deal with the P5+1 established at Lausanne is being seen as a national victory that has encouraged Tehran to prepare for the new post-sanctions era that lies ahead if it adheres to the terms of the agreement, according to US President Barack Obama.

“My hope is that we can find something that allows Congress to express itself but does not encroach on traditional presidential prerogatives and ensures that if in fact we get a good deal then we can go ahead and implement it,” Obama said in an interview with the New York Times on 5 April.

While Khamenei has not expressed himself directly about the Lausanne Agreement, the evidence shows that he is not disapproving. Even the matter of the differences between Iranian and US “fact-sheets” on the agreement have not bothered politicians on both sides as they continue talks aiming at a final deal.

A constructive role for Iran in the region is what Iran is looking for, and this will be facilitated by the final deal. Iran’s supreme leader does not want to miss this opportunity, and neither does Obama.

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