The Geneva interim accord over Iran’s nuclear program signed on November 24 last year was a landmark development in the course of Iran’s relations with the world powers, especially the United States, with which it directly negotiated in a high-level for the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
According to the agreement known as the Joint Plan of Action, Iran will voluntarily limit certain portions of its nuclear activities, in return for relief from some of the sanctions that were imposed against Iran in the recent years, including the petrochemical and automobile industry sanctions. The six world powers (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States) have also agreed to release $4.2 billion of Iran’s frozen assets, lift the ban on Iran’s gold trade, refrain from restricting its oil exports and allow the sale of civilian aircrafts’ spare parts to Iran.
Aside from the fact that the agreement signaled a revival of Iran’s economy that was somewhat troubled under the biting international sanctions, it also opened up new horizons for political and diplomatic cooperation between Iran and the international community and provided opportunities for the resuscitation of Iran’s marred relations with the United States and the European Union.
It was immediately following the conclusion of this important agreement that the Western officials, diplomats and parliamentarians began to enthusiastically travel to Iran one after the other to hold talks with their Iranian counterparts, exchange views with them and explore the possibilities of future cooperation with Tehran and bringing to an end the longstanding standoff between Iran and the West.
Delegations from the European Parliament, Italian Senate, German Bundestag, Mexican Chamber of Duties, Irish House of the Oireachtas and UK House of Lords and the foreign ministers of several countries came to Iran, and as reported by the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, it’s expected that prominent officials will be traveling to Iran in the coming weeks, including the Swedish and Polish foreign ministers, a parliamentary delegation from Romania and a group of Canadian lawmakers. In the diplomatic culture, such exchanges and communications signify the importance of bilateral and multilateral relations and indicate the foreign policy priorities of different countries.
In the wake of these determining developments that seemed to be quite vital for the future of Iran’s foreign policy and its international standing, a group of hawkish U.S. Senators unexpectedly came up with the plan of introducing a bill that will impose new sanctions against Iran and will even oblige the U.S. government to give logistical support to Israel in case that the Tel Aviv regime decides to launch a military strike against Iran.
S.1881, the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013,” was introduced by Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a Republican Senator and former member of the House from Illinois. It’s noteworthy that of the 59 Senators supporting the bill, 16 ones are Democrats.
When it was first reported that the 100-member Senate will be giving the green light to the bill to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran, even the U.S. government officials were disturbed and frightened, because the neat deal that was struck with Iran after several days of intensive talks in Geneva, and more importantly after some 10 years of inconclusive negotiations, was not something trivial or insignificant which could be extinguished that easily with the obduracy and adamancy of a group of pro-Israeli Senators.
The White House immediately rushed to denounce the call by the Senators to pass the new sanctions, and President Obama said that he will certainly veto any new sanctions that will derail the negotiations with Iran. “Imposing additional sanctions now will only risk derailing our efforts to resolve this issue peacefully, and I will veto any legislation enacting new sanctions during the negotiation,” said Barack Obama in a statement released by the White House.
Following the remarks made by the U.S. President, the Senate minority leader Harry Reid also announced that he will not allow the bill to come to the floor in the Senate. Any legislation in the 100-member Senate needs at least 67 votes to be able to override the president’s veto, and with the withdrawal of the Democrat signatories, it will not have any chances of being realized.
However, the very fact that there are some lawmakers and politicians in the United States, who contrary to the commitments entrusted to Washington by virtue of the Joint Plan of Action, are still pushing for new sanctions against Iran is alarming and upsetting. One of the commitments made by the United States and the five other countries talking to Iran is for them to refrain from imposing new unilateral or multilateral sanctions against Iran during the 6 months of the implementation of the interim accord, and after that during the talks for bringing forth the comprehensive agreement. So, any new sanctions by the EU or the United States would be a violation of the terms of the Geneva agreement, a deal-breaker action and will eventually force Iran into revising its approach toward the talks.
Like as the Geneva agreement has critics in Europe the United States who believe that the wave of sanctions should continue to be directed against Iran and there should be no removal of the sanctions until the complete dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program in its entirety, the deal has its own critics in Iran, as well, who believe that the United States and its European allies cannot be trustable partners and holding talks with them will be fruitless and full of loopholes.
President Rouhani and his diplomatic team have a relatively hard job convincing and satisfying the domestic critics and opponents who dissuade the administration from sitting with the United States at the negotiation table, and the imposition of new sanctions will simply further complicate the situation for him. The critics of President Rouhani that include some lawmakers, journalists and public speakers say that the black background of the U.S. interventions in Iran’s internal affairs, its support for the 1953 coup against the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, its support for Saddam Hussein during the 8-year war, its sponsorship of MKO and Jundallah terrorist cults against the civilians and its policy of sanctions and military threats against Iran have all made it an unreliable negotiating partner and insincere interlocutor. They say that when Iran was cooperating with the United States on the security of Afghanistan, the former U.S. President George W. Bush branded Iran as part of an “axis of evil”, and so the future of cooperation with the U.S. would be unclear.
President Rouhani and his team argue that Iran and the international community should move towards reconciliation and putting aside the disputes and the acrimonies of the past in order to solve the nuclear standoff once for all. They acknowledge the arguments of their domestic critics, but say that the continuation of the nuclear controversy is in nobody’s interests, so in order to find a sustainable solution for this controversy, both Iran and the West should forget about the bitter memories they have of each other, and negotiate in good faith, on equal footing and based on mutual respect.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has several times reiterated that Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1 are simply limited to the nuclear issue, and this is how the Iranian government has decided to address the concerns of those inside Iran who believe that Iran should not show leniency toward the United States that has demonstrated its unconditional animosity and hostility toward Iran.
But the hawkish, extremist figures in the U.S. political sphere, whether in the government, the Congress or the media, should carefully note that the door for diplomacy would not always remain open, and the chances for a categorical, definite resolution of the decade-long nuclear controversy are limited. They should pay attention to the fact that President Rouhani’s administration has embarked on a very sensitive endeavor for directly talking to the United States that many people inside Iran don’t think of positively. Any new sanctions against Iran under any baseless pretext would mean a violation of the Geneva agreement, the termination of its implementation and possibly an end to the long-sought talks. A peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the nuclear controversy would be beneficial to all parties, and will immensely contribute to regional peace and security. These pro-Israeli Senators who are certainly fueled and empowered by Tel Aviv should come to the understanding that pleasing Netanyahu and Shimon Peres at the expense of the interests of their own people and the people of the world is not a logical or relevant decision. Somebody should ask them not to kill the unprecedented chances that have emerged for a peaceful and viable diplomacy with Iran.
By Kourosh Ziabari
27 January 2014
Journalist, writer and media correspondent