A grand bargain?

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

out of Iran; and al­low In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA) in­spec­tions of any of Iran's fa­cil­i­ties sus­pected of be­ing in­volved in nu­clear weapons ac­tiv­i­ties. In ex­change, the ma­jor pow­ers re­port­edly would of­fer some eas­ing of the sanc­tions im­posed against Tehran, so that it can, for ex­am­ple, pur­chase spare parts for its civil­ian air­craft.

Iran's po­si­tion re­mains that: it does not seek nu­clear weapons; it has the right, un­der the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, to en­rich ura­nium; and the talks with the six pow­ers should cover not only the nu­clear is­sue but also those is­sues raised by Iran.

For the past sev­eral months, Iran held back from re­sum­ing the talks be­cause of the escalation of uni­lat­eral West­ern sanc­tions and the threat of a mil­i­tary at­tack es­poused by Prime Min­is­ter Ne­tanyahu of Is­rael and some Amer­i­can "hawks". It re­sponded ro­bustly to cy­ber at­tacks, drone sur­veil­lance and sab­o­tage.

Last Septem­ber, at the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly, the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter stepped back from the threat of im­mi­nent at­tack, un­der heavy pres­sure from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and dis­sen­sion within Is­rael's se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment.

Some of Iran's cal­i­brated ac­tions also helped to lower the po­lit­i­cal tem­per­a­ture, such as turn­ing a part of its higher (20 per cent) en­riched ura­nium into fuel rods (thus mak­ing this un­suit­able for a nu­clear weapon) and hold­ing sev­eral rounds of ex­changes with the IAEA on broader in­spec­tions (although not agree­ing to such in­spec­tions prior to the Al­maty talks). The ma­jor pow­ers were en­cour­aged by the choice of the venue for the talks. Kaza­khstan is one of only three coun­tries - the other two be­ing Ukraine and South Africa - which have given up their nu­clear weapons.

Although, as ex­pected, the Al­maty talks last month did not yield a dra­matic break­through, the agree­ment to con­tinue the process in­di­cates mu­tual flex­i­bil­ity.

The West­ern me­dia's as­ser­tion that Iran was com­pelled to re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble by puni­tive sanc­tions was clearly false. In fact, Iran's po­si­tion has been strength­ened by re­cent de­vel­op­ments: Rus­sia's es­trange­ment with the US; China's lead­er­ship tran­si­tion and the US pivot to Asia; the vis­i­ble dif­fer­ences be­tween the US and Is­rael and the Pen­tagon's open aver­sion to mil­i­tary strikes against Iran.

Thus, in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, con­ces­sions are more likely to come from the West rather than Iran.

In his State of the Union ad­dress on Feb 11, US Pres­i­dent Obama de­clared: "The lead­ers in Iran must recog­nise that now is the time for a diplo­matic so­lu­tion, be­cause a coali­tion stands united in de­mand­ing that they meet their obli­ga­tions, and we will do what is nec­es­sary to pre­vent them from get­ting a nu­clear weapon." This was in­ter­preted as ex­press­ing US de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­sort to all op­tions, in­clud­ing the

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