The Silver Lining in the Istanbul Talks

27 January 2011 | 01:50 Code : 10132 General category
Interview with Hassan Beheshtipour
The Silver Lining in the Istanbul Talks

IRD: The Istanbul negotiations ended Saturday without Iran and P5+1 [five permanent members of the UN Security plus Germany] setting a date for the next round of talks. How did you see the talks?

HB: Both sides kept firm on their stances in the talks. Iran elaborated on its view and put forth a set of proposals which were unacceptable for West. The P5+1’s offers were also rejected by Iran. The silver lining is that both sides had the chance to sit at the table, elaborate on their outlooks, and get to know each other better. But their non-agreement on the date and venue of the next round of talks was a failure.

However, it seems that there is no other way but negotiations based on a consensual agenda. What the Western media claim, that Iran is killing (or buying) time through negotiations, is erroneous and in contradiction to the facts. Iran tries to make the other side understand its rights enshrined in the NPT [Non-Proliferation Protocol]. The six world powers should acknowledge Iran’s rights. This is an objective achieved through negotiations.

IRD: The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, among others, has said that Iran must suspend enrichment of uranium for a deal to materialize. However, other members of the group of six have hoped that the negotiations will continue, despite their dissatisfaction with the Istanbul talks. How could US’ feelings influence its partners?

HB: I think Ms. Rice and others have tried to make preemptive strikes. There is no logic to their words. If agreement is unachievable without Iran suspending enrichment, then why did they join the negotiating team? I think it could be a response to Iranian officials’ remarks that Iran would not negotiate over its nuclear rights.. I think US is taking the wrong approach –an Israeli approach I would say- toward Iran’s nuclear program. Since the beginning of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, Tel Aviv didn’t want the negotiations –between Iran and the European trio [UK, France and Germany] and later Iran and P5+1- to succeed and drummed up the case for war. Military confrontation with Iran is what Israelis wish to be the final outcome of negotiations. Rice is following the same line with these kinds of statements.

But I think there are many potential solutions yet unrealized and it is too soon to talk of a stalemate. There is still room for negotiations.

IRD: What is the next step for Western countries and the UN Security Council? Are more sanctions in the pipeline?

HB: The adventurism attitude which tends to impose sanctions and pressure on Iran is still active. But I think there are fractures inside the six world powers, and even between the US diplomatic decision-makers, especially between the pro-Israel lobbies and those outside its influence. The West is not going to dress up for confrontation and toughen the sanctions. Inside Western political circles, there are people who know that the sanctions have achieved nothing in convincing Iran to give up its nuclear program. They seek a new mode of cooperation, a win-win game, in which no side feels it has gotten the shorter end of the stick.

In politics, digging in of heels is theoretically incorrect and practically unfeasible. The road to negotiations should be open. Both sides should appreciate each others’ sensitivities. Blocking dialogue means war, and this is not in interest of Iran, the Middle East and even those who advocate war.