Iran’s flexibility must be returned by the West if it is serious in the Vienna talks (ex-diplomat)

TEHRAN – A former Iranian diplomat says that if the West is serious about revitalizing the 2015 nuclear deal, like Iran, it must also show flexibility in the Vienna talks.

“There are indications that the Iranian delegation has been constructive in showing flexibility, in particular in avoiding insisting on all the amendments it had proposed at the beginning. This flexibility needs to be reciprocated by the other party, if it is serious to reach an agreement, ”Kourosh Ahmadi told The Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Ahmadi also believes the United States is accusing Iran of buying time as a tactic because it might have “an eye on the blame game in case the talks fail.”

Here is the text of the interview:

Q: Even some in the United States say Joe Biden is not serious about revitalizing the JCPOA as he promised during his presidential campaigns. Do you think that this lack of seriousness is intended to avoid exasperating the Republics?

A: I don’t see any serious sign that Mr. Biden is not serious about reviving the JCPOA. It seems that it is serious to do so under certain conditions which are not realistic. For example, in his editorial, published by CNN on September 13, 2020, he talked about reviving the deal and making it “longer and stronger” and then focusing on other issues such as the missile program. Iranian and regional issues. If his administration intends to insist on such unrealistic conditions, then the current efforts in Vienna should prove frustrating. This is exactly where Republicans step in and insist that Mr. Biden keep his promises. In other words, he might now be trapped by his rhetoric.

Q: How do you assess the process of the Vienna talks?

A: I believe that both parties are looking for and are ready for a compromise. True, the talks have been slow so far, but I think they are still on the right track. The parties of the seventh round got to know each other, which was necessary due to the change of administration in Iran. They also agreed on the way to proceed as well as on the texts which would be the basis of the negotiations. During the current round, they should be able to focus on the content. There are indications that the Iranian delegation has been constructive in showing flexibility, in particular in avoiding insisting on all the amendments it originally proposed. It is necessary that this flexibility be reciprocated by the other party, if it is serious to reach an agreement.

The issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear program “cannot be manifestly legal or technical”.

Q: How do you analyze the insistence of the West, especially the Americans, for the Vienna talks to be concluded as quickly as possible? For example, Secretary Blinken said, “I’m not going to put a time limit or give you the number of meters left on the track except to say, yes, it’s getting very, very, very short. Don’t you think that such artificial delays are meant to put psychological pressure on Iran?

A: This is a tactic the United States has employed from the start. They started by accusing Iran of trying to buy time and procrastinate. Iran’s delay of about five months in starting talks has been an excuse to try to push this argument forward. In doing so, they can also keep an eye on the blame game in case the talks fail. Now they’re trying to put pressure on Iran through hawkish talks and some kind of unofficial, implied deadline. No doubt this would degrade the mood and hurt the prospect of a compromise.

Q: There are reports that France, as a member of the European troika, is hampering the progress of the talks. Of course, France played such a role in the previous round of talks that led to the JCPOA. Don’t you think that France is trying to please certain sheikhs in the Persian Gulf by such behavior?

A: It is possible that French behavior from time to time has been and continues to be motivated by France’s relations with and pressure from certain Arab states on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf. They have also started since August 2017 to talk about integrating issues relating to the Iranian missile program and regional issues in the negotiations; something Iran has always rejected. It should also be taken into account that Iran has not done enough to create the necessary leverage effect with France and other European states. While Iran’s regional rivals have lost no opportunity to move in this and any other direction.

Q: In your December 27 article in the Etemad newspaper, you wrote that the experience of previous talks shows that the P5 + 1 group has always acted unanimously, and therefore an extremist approach from one member can affect the whole group. Can you clarify this point?

“If the administrator of Biden. insists on unrealistic conditions, the talks in Vienna could prove to be frustrating ” A: Yes, it has always been important for the United States under the Obama and Biden administrations to form a coalition to deal with Iran and many other international issues. This was obviously not the case with the Trump administration. Now the United States believes it will be stronger if the 5 + 1 can maintain a unified approach and position. John Kerry, the former US secretary of state and chief negotiator, refers in his memoirs to France’s more hawkish stance at one point in the previous negotiations and stresses that they had to be attentive to what France asked for. He also said that, based on President Obama’s instructions, the highest priority for the US delegation was to preserve the 5 + 1 unity and unified position as it was necessary to reach an agreement with Iran and the United States. protect thereafter. Kerry adds, so we sided with France. This time, too, we can conclude that once again the hawkish approach of a 5 + 1 member can affect the position of the whole group.

Q: In a recent interview, former nuclear negotiator Seyyed Hossein Mousavian somehow suggested a direct negotiation between Iran and the United States, arguing that if the United States gives concessions to Iran, they want it directly and not through intermediaries. What is your opinion?

A: There should be no doubt about it. While I understand Iran’s anger as one of the reasons Iran avoids speaking directly to the United States, I doubt that there can be an agreement between Iran and the United States without that the two parties speak to each other directly. Furthermore, I

“I think at later stages of the negotiations it would be essentially impossible for these two main parties to make much progress without sitting down face to face and focusing on formulations, phrases, alternatives, formulations of substitution.” I think at later stages of the negotiations it would be practically impossible for these two main parties to make much progress without sitting down face to face and focusing on wordings, sentences, alternatives, substitute wordings. , etc. In addition, indirect talks would take too long and require a great deal of trust in messengers who may be non-existent. Needless to say, one of the messengers has his own interest.

Q: The United States and Europe would like to hold Iran responsible for the current crisis, ignoring the fact that the United States’ exit from the JCPOA and the inaction of the Europeans to compensate Iran for the sanctions has led Tehran’s retaliatory measures. What is the reason for such a blame game?

A: There is no doubt that the failure of the United States to fulfill its commitments is primarily responsible for the current situation. Other countries, including Europeans and others, are also responsible for their inaction and inability to push their banks and businesses to continue working with Iran. Some countries that continue to work with Iran on a limited basis do so informally and through intermediaries without showing it in their official statistics and customs records. This type of activity is also very costly for Iran and cannot go on indefinitely.

Q: It is completely understandable that Iran is seeking guarantees that the United States will not leave the JCPOA again. However, experts and diplomats believe that the only way Iran can be sure the sanctions are permanently lifted is to resolve Tehran’s fundamental differences and disputes with the United States and establish normal relations. . What’s your suggestion?

A: In view of the United States’ breach of engagement, I agree that Iran is right to be cautious and cautious before taking the same path again. Some sort of guarantee binding the United States on the deal going forward is a solution if there can be one. To my knowledge, there is still no feasible and practical suggestion for this purpose. On the other hand, it is often said that the main shortcoming of the JCPOA is the fact that it is a single agreement. While there are so many issues straining Iranian-American relations. So, I understand the logic of the proposition. At least, since the 1990s, there has been talk of a so-called large market in which the two countries settle everything between themselves. But at least for now, I don’t see any prospect for such a probability. Under the current circumstances, I can think of nothing but all the parties going back to their commitments under the JCPOA and trying in good faith to stay in compliance with its terms. We must also be careful not to open the market, because that would be like opening a Pandora’s box.

Q: Do you agree with this view that the issue surrounding Iran’s nuclear program is primarily political?

A: Of course, it is essentially political. This obviously cannot be legal or technical. The political will of the parties is the most decisive factor in deciding the outcome of any effort to find a solution. And by policy, I also take into account the internal politics of the parties. As the saying goes: foreign policy is the continuation of domestic policy. The domestic politics of the United States under Obama resulted in the JCPOA, and the domestic politics of the United States under Trump destroyed it.

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