Another round of inconclusive negotiations between Iran and P 5+1 (the UN Security Council’s 5 permanent members and Germany) was held in Istanbul last week.
While the expectation about the result of Istanbul talks was not so high, this meaningless vicious circle of negotiations is overwhelming. Needless to say that the Iranian nuclear crisis is the best example of how such a technique issue could turn out to be a long lasting thorny political case.
It is really difficult to understand why the parts of this crisis insist on same inoperative demands, policies and pre-conditions rather than getting to the root of problem. This is very well known that the main problem among diverse of the crisis is the mutual trust problem. World’s major powers are concerned about the military dimension of Iranian nuclear activities and try to prevent Iran going nuclear. So for, for many in West, only solution to this widely discussed problem is a halt to enrichment activities of Iran. On the other hand Iran who has the main goal of "independent uranium enrichment" does not trust in Western countries and claim that the major powers’ intention is not dialogue or solution, but to deprive Iran from its legitimate rights. Besides in order to secure itself, Iran looks for as much as concessions that could be taken from Western countries.
Now what do we know about the result of latest Istanbul negotiations? Before anything else we know that it failed to produce any agreement or significant movement toward a compromise. In Iran’s words "the talks focused on creating common ground for cooperationâ. Just God knows what it means! In major powers’ word this was not a conclusion they hoped for and it became clear that the Iranian side was not ready to negotiate unless others agreed on Iran’s preconditions.
As it was assumed before the negotiations, Iran had some demands. And after imposing two major demands as precondition, the talks deadlocked. Iran has made it clear that they will not give any concession about their inalienable right of enriching uranium. Therefore they demanded recognition for Iran’s right to enrich uranium. In addition they expect the world powers to lift the UN Security Council’s sanctions and abandon their dual track policy of diplomacy and pressure.
In return P5+1 countries were united in opposing these preconditions and they insisted that first, Iran must show its goodwill by taking confidence-building measures. They reiterated that their proposals -including a modified version of swap formula- were still in effect, but at first Iran has to choose to open talks without preconditions.
Well this process had faced nonsense barriers which consist of preconditions before. For example the Bush government who insisted on suspension of all enrichment activities before any negotiation. And as is seen this time, it is Iran’s turn to set preconditions. That’s for sure because much has changed in the nuclear dynamics between Iran and the West over the past years. It is necessary to underline that this change is a result of miscalculated policies and preconditions of the West.
Today Iran has the capacity of enriching uranium to 20 % and they also declared that they have the capacity of producing their own nuclear fuel rods. Well, this is the outcome of miscalculated policies. Right, Iran is more motivated and stronger than the past years in nuclear stage, but one need to remind Iran that preconditions act as barriers and deadlocks more than solutions.
Moreover, expecting West to lift the sanctions in a time that they believe the rounds of sanctions have begun to hurt Iran, will be nothing more than an extreme optimism. They believe that Iran’s increased isolation combined with a retrogressive economy suffering from fourth round of UN Security Council resolutions have begun to show its impact. That’s why they did not panic after the latest inconclusive negotiations. If one remind the parallel tactics such as cyber-attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, espionage activities and assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists it will be better understood that why the Western countries were relax. They did not expect the preconditions because they know that their alternative tactics to slow down the pace of Iranian nuclear program plus sanctions have worked. So this result provides them more time for talks. On the other hand, while expectations for the Istanbul talks had been low, in general 5+1 officials and many analysts hailed the unanimity of the six powers as significant achievement. Therefore if even they did not get anything concrete at the end of talks, they were satisfied about displaying a common stance which will be a message for future negotiations.
Consequently, it is obvious that the result of two days negotiations was indeed "nothing". Even if there were some agreed points nothing concrete was on the table at the end of talks. But at least neither Iran nor P5+1 closed the door for further negotiations. They did not set a date for the next round of the negotiations, but at least we must be happy that the diplomatic channels are still open and still there is a hope for a solution in the next rounds of that vicious circle. Who knows, may be one will come with the idea that this process needs a new breath and out-dated policies and initiatives do not work anymore! This is a significant criticism for both sides. As mentioned above, first both sides have to solve their mutual trust problem, later on they can move toward a win-win game based on the two sides’ relative satisfaction.
International Strategic Research Organization (USAK)
Middle Eastern and African Studies Center