In the year 2013, the world has seen rising hope for ending the decade-old deadlock over Iran’s nuclear issue after an interim deal was struck in Geneva in late November.
The landmark deal was warmly welcomed worldwide, although the latest U.S. move to blacklist additional Iranian companies and personnel apparently made the process toward an ultimate solution more complicated.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said the deal would help maintain the world’s non-proliferation system as well as peace and stability in the Middle East, favor normal activities of all parties with Iran, and better the life of the Iranian people.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the result was a “victory for all,” while leaders of the European Union hailed the agreement as a major breakthrough for global security and stability.
Without abolishing existing sanctions, U.S. President Barack Obama said the the U.S. encouraged the negotiations with Iran since “we cannot close the door on diplomacy, and we cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world’s problems.”
Iran and P5+1 — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany — announced they had reached a deal after five days of talks in Geneva on Nov. 24.
Under the deal, the U.S. and its allies will lift part of sanctions on Iran in the fields of oil, gold, petrochemicals, auto industries and civil aviation with an estimated value of about 7 billion U.S. dollars.
In exchange, Iran agreed to halt enrichment above 5 percent and neutralizing its stockpile of near-20 percent uranium by means of dilution or converting. Both sides have called the deal an initial step for confidence building.
However, the United States on Thursday blacklisted more than two dozen companies and individuals for evading international sanctions against Iran or supporting its nuclear program.
In response, Iran’s expert-level nuclear negotiating team halted talks with the representatives of world powers in Vienna and returned home for further consultations.
FIRST STEP TAKEN
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed that the first step has been taken in the recent talks for building trust between Iran and the world powers, but he admitted “there is a long way ahead to reach confidence.”
Rouhani told a press conference that Iran was ready to remove all doubts on its nuclear program and the newly reached deal explicitly declared that Iran could continue its uranium enrichment
Rouhani called the deal an acknowledgment of Iran’s enrichment rights and an “achievement” for Iran’s negotiating team, and expected the agreement to open “new horizons” for his country.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also hailed the nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers, noting the achievements scored in the talks, including international recognition of Iran’s nuclear and enrichment rights and the subsequent economic benefits, laid a basis for Iran’s future development.
Meanwhile, he stressed that resistance against the “excessive demands” of some powers had been and would be the criteria for Iranian officials.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif said that “uranium enrichment in Iran will be part of any solution” to the country’s nuclear issue, adding the nuclear deal between Iran and the powers also would help maintain peace in the region.
Under the deal, “the uranium enrichment in Iran will continue…None of Iran’s nuclear sites will be closed,” Zarif said.
The deal marks a new era after 35 years of anti-America and anti-West policy since the Islamic revolution. If it is not a U-turn, it means Iran is at least reviewing its past foreign policies, Sadeq Zibakalam, a professor of politics in Tehran University, told Xinhua.
Zibakalam agreed the deal was an achievement, saying it may bring both short- and long-term benefits for Iran.
In the short run, Iran will see economic improvement, especially in curbing inflation and stabilizing exchange rates, with its assets abroad freed and some sanctions on oil and banking industry partly lifted.
In the long run, the impact will be tremendous, as foreign companies will return to Iran, sanctions on Iran will be further eased, relations between Iran and the West will continue to improve, and foreign investment will flow into Iran, particularly into its energy sector.
BUMPY ROAD AHEAD
However, discrepancies are surfacing days after the deal was struck. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said that the “Fact Sheet” released by the White House over the nuclear deal is a one-sided interpretation of the agreement reached in Geneva, according to Press TV.
“What was released on the White House website as the Fact Sheet was a one-sided interpretation of the text agreed on in Geneva and some descriptions and terms in this sheet are inconsistent with the text of the Joint Action Plan,” Afkham said without detailing the incongruities.
However, some hardline Iranian lawmakers criticized the deal openly and called the deal a drawback.
“The representatives of people (lawmakers) have not been informed about the details of the agreement yet,” Parliament Member Hamid Rasaee said.
According to the constitution, accords, agreements and the contracts of Iranian government with other countries should be ratified by the Majlis (parliament), he said.
“Iran’s foreign minister has one version about the deal and the U.S. secretary of state has another story. The U.S. president claims something else. The paradox is obvious on Iran’s TV programs,” said Rasaee, describing the deal “a poison” to Iran.
Another hardline lawmaker, Mehrdad Bazrpash said, “according to the released news, Iran’s right to enrich (uranium) has not been secured in the document clearly, while it was among Iran’s redlines.”
His words came as a response to some officials’ persistence that such a right has been secured throughout the agreed documents in the deal.
Mohammad-Reza Bahonar, deputy speaker of the Iranian Majlis, said that nobody has the right to ignore Iran’s rights, and this is just the interim deal not a final one, “in case there is a mistake by Iranian negotiators, the Islamic republic is vigilant and careful with open eyes. For this reason, the (lawmaker) friends should not worry” about the deal.
Under the hardline lawmakers’ pressures, Zarif went to the Majlis and briefed lawmakers about the deal as Iran’s top negotiator.
Hardline lawmaker Ruhollah Hosseinian noted at the Majlis session that the deal has ambiguous and conditional statements about Iran’s uranium enrichment, which he feared may shut down Iran’s enrichment program.
Besides, the semi-official Fars news agency reported that “a review of Iran’s obligations in the deal shows that we have almost given everything the U.S. demanded and part of what France had asked. In practice, we have only acquired low-grade enrichment, which also needs to be approved. We have not kept any other important thing for ourselves.”
Israel has repeatedly stated its staunch opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, and warned that it was not bound by the agreement. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Geneva deal was the “greatest diplomatic victory” for Iran.
Also, many U.S. congressmen have appeared skeptical to the deal reached in Geneva. Both Democrats and Republicans are pushing for heavier sanction pressures on Tehran despite resistance by the Obama administration.
“It is the West’s promise that need to be testified. If the West cannot keep their end of the deal, it would expose their true nature to the Iranian people,” said Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a research fellow at the Institute of North American and European Studies of Tehran University.
Marandi told Xinhua that a short term deal does not mean a solution of the deadlock between Iran and the West.
A long term solution, which recognizes Iran’s nuclear rights and totally lift sanctions, is still out of reach. “The issue cannot be put to an end unless the West change their attitude and stop discrimination against Iran,” he added.
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