Few observers of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program anticipated a breakthrough from the Istanbul meeting between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the six major powers known as the P5+1 (five members of the Security Council plus Germany). Yet a swift breakdown was not expected either. The assumption was that a difficult negotiating path was possible and perhaps even desired by both sides.
The United States officials continue to insist that the two-track approach — seeking engagement while still putting pressure on Iran through sanctions and other punitive financial actions — will continue until an agreement is reached.
Yet Tehran’s hardliners, currently in charge, effectively declared the structure of negotiations over the country’s nuclear program obsolete. If Tehran’s Istanbul posture does not change, P5+1 may – and only may – maintain its utility as a vehicle for yet another round of American-led efforts to impose new UN sanctions on Iran but it will not be useful for negotiations with Iran.
Tehran’s insistence that talks should center on issues of “mutual” or “global” concerns and away from the country’s nuclear program is not new. This approach was initiated when the Bush administration relented in its final year and agreed to U.S. diplomatic presence in the talks. The novelty of Istanbul talks lied in the assertiveness with which Iran’s negotiating team, headed by the Supreme National Security Council’s Secretary Saeed Jalili, challenged the Western two-track approach of engagement and pressure.
By demanding suspension of sanctions and acceptance of Iran’s treaty rights to enrichment, which Jalili called “prerequisites” for further talks, Tehran effectively declared that it is no longer interested in talks in which only Iran stands accused of violations of international norms and rules. (more…)Continue Reading →