1005 GMT May 28, 2022
Negotiations between Iran and the P4+1 group is underway in Austria’s capital, Vienna, after several rounds of talks over the Iran nuclear program. The prolongation of the talks, and the fact that nothing new has been released thus far, has created the impression that the stances of the sides have not come closer to each other. However, that is not the case, and I think we should be optimistic about the result of the talks.
Having the impression of a slowdown in the process of negotiations, and hearing nothing new from Vienna about the talks is because the negotiations have reached a critical point, and the discussions have become very serious. I believe that many of the problems with the agreement have been resolved.
Obviously, it can be said that the discussions over the lifting of sanctions against Iran have yielded results. There are also solutions to the issue of verification of the effective lifting of sanctions, which is Iran’s main demand in the talks.
The United States itself can buy crude oil from Iran and transfer the money to the government, so that other countries can be assured that they can also engage in trade with Tehran. Other countries can also help bring about a satisfactory solution over Iran’s demand for a guarantee that the US will not leave the nuclear deal again.
Iran has a right to seek guarantees. A proposal in the face of either party’s withdrawal from the agreement could be for Tehran to have a level of uranium enrichment under the new agreement, halt enrichment with IR 6 centrifuges beyond the level agreed upon in the deal, not send the enriched uranium to another country, and keep them inside the country under the supervision of the IAEA.
This can enable Iran to reactivate the centrifuges in a short time and start enrichment at a high level whenever one side of the agreement violates the deal.
In recent days, there has been talk of proposals for an interim agreement in Vienna, which Iran has rejected. This proposal is neither in the interest of Iran, nor in the interest of the United States. What is important for Iran is the lifting of sanctions and removal of obstacles that the sanctions have created for Iran’s trade, so that Tehran can pursue its medium-term and long-term strategies. So, an interim agreement cannot serve Iran's interests. Therefore, I’m optimistic that an agreement will be reached before the end of the Iranian year (March 20, 2022).
The US has had a policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran. And officials in the Biden administration have repeatedly acknowledged that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not been weakened as a result of such pressure.
The Biden administration is now more focused on China and Russia, and although in recent years it has welcomed tensions in West Asia, it does not favor stoking tensions in this region at present. Therefore, they also seem to want the Vienna talks to be fruitful.
From the very beginning, Iran has announced that it is looking for real dialogue, and that it is willing to reach an agreement. In the months since the new Iranian government took office, Tehran has been able to expand its geopolitical sphere and promote its relations with neighbors. The Turkish president has expressed willingness to visit Tehran, Iran has expanded its relations with the Taliban, and Tehran is also seeking to strengthen relations with the Persian Gulf Arab states. Long-term cooperation with China and Russia is also being pursued more seriously. All these positive moves have paved the way for the promotion of the regional position and power of the Islamic Republic, and will certainly have an impact on the Vienna talks and its result.
Negotiations seem to be on the right track, and the Iranian negotiating team is working to reach a good agreement. We all need to support these efforts at home.
*Abdolreza Farajirad is an expert on geopolitical matters, former head of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, and former Iranian ambassador to Norway and Hungary.