Writer is Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and Chief Nuclear Negotiator
This week Iran and five world powers are meeting in Vienna for so-called “nuclear negotiations”. This very term – which is used to refer to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement – is riddled with errors.
Western countries, especially the United States, are working tirelessly to present the “negotiations” as a mere process to curtail Iran’s legitimate and peaceful nuclear program, which is enshrined in international treaties and monitored by organizations. monitoring. From Iran’s point of view, however, the “negotiations” must pursue real goals, respected by all parties.
In this vein, we have two objectives: the first is to obtain a total, guaranteed and verifiable lifting of the sanctions that have been imposed on the Iranian people. Without it, the process will continue indefinitely. “Negotiations” without a hermetic solution do not benefit anyone.
The second is to facilitate the legal rights of the Iranian nation to benefit from peaceful nuclear knowledge, especially enrichment technology which is very important for industrial purposes, under the terms of the International Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Previous attempts to bridge the “confidence gap” between the parties to the nuclear talks have failed mainly because the West views any deal only as an established platform from which to launch more pressure against Iran. In English, you call it “moving the goalposts”.
This is the crux of the dispute that forced us, six years after the initial agreement, to sit down again. We will begin these new discussions under circumstances influenced by the unfortunate fate of the JCPOA, when US President Donald Trump unilaterally decided to abandon this agreement. It was a terrible betrayal of trust for Iran and the Iranians.
Experience tells us that the West does not seek to implement an agreement. On the contrary, he seeks to score points of public perception by announcing a whole while stealthily “de-implementing” the agreement in every possible way. In our experience, this is followed by actions to “hijack” the JCPOA platform to force Iran to make more concessions in areas unrelated to the nuclear issue. As a result, the Iranian people trust neither the process nor its results.
It would be naïve to attribute these problems solely to the Trump administration and its “maximum pressure campaign”. The continued efforts of the United States to deny Iran any economic benefit for curtailing its nuclear activities is why many Iranian supporters who were once passionate about the deal have now changed their minds: they no longer trust neither to its tangible benefits nor to its intention. Donald Trump contented himself with removing the velvet gloves from the cast iron hand of the previous US administration.
From our point of view, the mistakes of the past should not be repeated. We have all, respectively, learned over the past six years what and who to trust. To ensure that any future deal is foolproof, the West must pay the price for not meeting its end of the bargain. As in any business, an agreement is an agreement, and breaking it has consequences.
Iran remains committed to the process and we will honor our commitments. From our point of view, the principle of “mutual conformity” cannot provide an appropriate basis for negotiations since it was the US government that unilaterally left the agreement. The United States would therefore have to demonstrate that it is serious this time around, and that it has the necessary competence to fulfill its commitments.
In the recent presidential elections in Iran, voters decided to invest their confidence in a paradigm that embraces a more realistic engagement with the West. Actions now count more than just words. We should be offered a clear and transparent mechanism to ensure that the sanctions are lifted. For what other conceivable reason would we compromise on Iran’s technological advances and its valuable national nuclear program?
Iran has not succumbed to the use of military threats, economic sanctions, or “maximum pressure” under Trump and it will not do so under Biden. In order to guarantee the rights and interests of our nation, we are ready for a fair and careful discussion, based on the principles of “guarantee” and “verification”. This should prioritize compensation for the breach of the agreement, which includes the removal of all post-JCPOA sanctions.
In return, Iran stands ready to voluntarily fulfill its nuclear commitments in accordance with the agreement. We remain ready to react proportionately to any pressure and reciprocally to any gesture of goodwill.
We made our choice. We will now know whether or not the West has the will to engage in real negotiations.