Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

A historic day for Iran?

As negotiations continue over a possible Iranian nuclear deal, a new deadline is approaching for what could be a historic day for Iran, writes Camelia Entekhabifard in Vienna

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The negotiators involved in the Iran nuclear talks are spending their summers behind closed doors in Vienna as the temperature outside hits 40 degrees celcius.

However, despite the heat, over the past ten days US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif have been in the Austrian capital trying to put an end to remaining disputes over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The talks, like the temperature, have been rising in intensity. The goal is nothing less than a deal, but neither side seems able to trust the other to take the fateful decision.

No one is interested in failure, which would have wide-ranging consequences. But the remaining issues are the same as they were two years ago, with the difference that the Americans and Iranians can now speak more comfortably and are willing to leave Vienna with a finished deal.

In Iran, expectations of a deal are high, and most Iranians want to see one. Any failure in the talks will not only jeopardise the upcoming re-election campaign of President Hassan Rouhani for a second term, but will also frustrate his administration’s desire to project Iran’s regional ambitions.

The carrot Iran has offered to the United States to encourage President Barack Obama to sign the deal before the deadline has been Iranian cooperation in the region, including in fighting Daesh, the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

In a pre-recorded tape released on YouTube on Saturday, Zarif encouraged the US to take tough decisions, saying that Iran would then be ready to assist in regional matters, including in fighting IS.

Zarif talked about the common threat of IS, but for the moment the US has not shown interest in the Iranian offer or in the quid pro quo the Iranians are offering. It may feel the talks are about Iran’s nuclear programme and not about other unrelated issues, even if these are important to the US, such as fighting terrorism in the region.

Many feel that the Americans are badly in need of a deal with Iran. It has been said that Obama is in need of a legacy, and a nuclear accord with Iran could be his biggest triumph when leaving office. Kerry is also heavily in need of success in the talks.

The Iranian media is full of stories on how the US administration is keen on reaching an accord, no matter what the price.

However, the Americans may not see things the same way, and on 5 July Kerry told journalists that “at this point negotiations could go either way… If hard choices get made in the next couple of days and made quickly, we could get an agreement this week. But if they are not made, we will not.”

Apparently, the Iranians do not want to observe the Lausanne Framework Agreement reached on 2 April and are asking for changes such as the immediate removal of sanctions upon the final agreement or no access to military sites, which is part of the obligations of signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The members of the P5+1 Group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) negotiating with Iran are more or less on the same page regarding the issues and matters which have not yet been solved.

They include the implementation of the possible agreement regarding sanctions removal and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to military sites which are part of the additional protocol to the NPT.

The new demand imposed by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the sanctions makes the work more difficult for the Iranian negotiators.

The self-imposed deadline of 30 June has passed and the time frame extended for another week to 7 July. On Tuesday Frederica Mogherini, EU representative for foreign affairs, walked out of the Coburg Palace in Vienna where the negotiations are being held and announced that the talks would continue for another couple of days.

“The continuation of the talks doesn’t mean an extension but instead means working to make the final agreement,” she said.

The next couple of days might mean that the deadline set by the US Congress for reviewing the accord within 30 days might be met if the agreement is now reached.

Few Americans, unlike most Iranians, care or know much about the nuclear talks. In Iran, on the other hand, they are a hot topic of conversation, with conversations in grocery stores or taxis being about the likelihood of a deal.

Many people look forward to life without sanctions and are talking about the chances of an improved economy. In the US, by contrast, a deal will have little or no impact on ordinary American lives, apart from people in politics whose calculations will be focussed on campaigns in the next presidential elections.

Thursday 9 July will be an ordinary day for most Americans, but for Iranians it will be a historic one if agreement is reached. A nuclear deal could change the lives of most Iranians for the better and mark a step towards peace after 36 years of poor international relations.

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