Iran decides to quit “axis of evil”

Hassan Rouhani: “The world should know that regional problems cannot be solved without Iran." Source: AP

Hassan Rouhani: “The world should know that regional problems cannot be solved without Iran." Source: AP

By signing a nuclear agreement with Group of 6, Iran looks to exit the unusual grouping in which it was placed by George W. Bush.

Talks on the nuclear issue between Tehran and the Group of Six have reached a qualitatively new level. The pace of the talks has increased dramatically and the delegations will return to Geneva on November 20. For the first time, the ministers of foreign affairs will be taking part in the dialogue. The most important point here is that joint work on a framework document has begun. However, the prospects of signing a final agreement are still vague. The interests of the negotiating parties and the main players “behind the scenes” are not limited to the desire of seeing the Iranian nuclear issue closed.

An agreement, the work on which was started in Geneva, could be the first step to overcoming the international isolation that Iran now finds itself stuck in, and that could eventually end in an external aggression against it.

The President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, said: “The world should know that regional problems cannot be solved without Iran. We will continue to go in that direction, because in this way the role of Iran will increase in the world and in the region, and then the world community will be convinced that Iran communicates with the world from the position of logic.”

In fact, by signing an agreement with the six intermediaries, Iran will be excluded from the “axis of evil”, where it was placed by the administration of George W. Bush.

In addition, the phased elimination of international sanctions against Iran was discussed at the Geneva talks. This may lead to gradual unfreezing of Iran's foreign assets, worth about $50 billion. This is a substantial amount, but again – the main point here is the trend to reduce tensions.

In return, Iran is required to suspend uranium enrichment to 20 percent. Given the fact that these negotiations, at the level of deputy foreign ministers, were unexpectedly joined by foreign ministry bosses, means an agreement was almost reached. However, France came up with an unexpected dissenting opinion, reminding everyone about the reactor in Arak which, according to some experts, can be used for the production of weapons-grade plutonium.

France’s position caused irritation among the other delegations. Commenting on the behaviour of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the President of the Near East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, supposed that – “Paris was just fulfilling its duty as the ally of Saudi Arabia.”

In the end, the six managed to find a compromise with France; however, Tehran did not approve it. Iran has very little concern about the specific claims being made in respect of its reactor in Arak. After the talks in Geneva, Tehran signed an Agreement on the Settlement of Existing Differences with the IAEA on Monday. The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that: “Within this agreement, the IAEA can carry out inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, including the heavy water reactor in Arak, and the uranium mine in Gachin.”

However, the dispute over the level of enrichment of uranium is fundamental for Tehran. “The rights of Iran and its national interests, including the right to use the atom for peaceful purposes within the framework of international agreements, as well as the enrichment of uranium in the country are the ‘red line’ for us”, said President Rouhani.

Iran does not want to submit to any externally imposed restrictions on the enrichment of uranium, which is permitted to almost all states implementing their own peaceful nuclear programs. This is a matter of international prestige for the Islamic Republic.

However, Iran does not reject negotiations. To the contrary, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, at a press conference said that the talks: “Laid the foundation for moving forward.” Moreover, the willingness to meet just one week after the end of Sunday’s round of the negotiations suggests that Tehran has the will to complete them.

This prospect is evoking strong protests from the major players in the Middle East. Israel, which is concerned more than others about the Iranian nuclear threat, is demanding that this problem not be solved hastily.

Iran coming out of isolation is also bad news for Saudi Arabia. Information that Riyadh might acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan did not appear by coincidence. All this complicates the upcoming negotiations.

“You have to understand that very strong pressure is being exerted on the U.S.A., both inside the country and by countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some others,” said the Director of the Center for Public Policy Research, Vladimir Yevseyev. “They do not want to see the U.S.A. and Iran improving their relations. For Saudi Arabia, any change in the status of Iran is a challenge to the regional ambitions of Riyadh. It is clear that they will do everything to block these negotiations.” 

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