TEHRAN – In an article published on Monday, the Financial Times wrote that it is unlikely that issues such as the United States’ refusal to grant a visa to Iran’s new UN ambassador appointee or a possible oil-for-goods deal between Tehran and Moscow will derail nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic and the major powers.
Following are excerpts of the article written by David Gardner:
The third round of negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s … nuclear ambitions ended this weekend in the shadow of a specter from the past – the crisis triggered when … students took hostage 52 Americans at the U.S. embassy in Tehran after the 1979 Islamist revolution.
Washington is denying a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, the former Iranian ambassador to the EU who Tehran has named as its next ambassador to the UN, because he played a cameo role as an interpreter in the hostage saga.
Another fillip for the rejectionists are the reports that Russia – notionally part of the six powers (along with the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and China) seeking a diplomatic outcome to the Iranian nuclear controversy that forestalls war – is carpet-trading a barter deal of oil for imports worth up to $20bn with Tehran. This risks eroding the sanctions that brought Tehran to the table, even if the architecture of the embargo is still in place.
The potential rewards of securing a rapprochement with Iran are so great that none of this is enough to derail it. But even after the euphoria of late November’s interim agreement, a nuclear deal is no foregone conclusion. Unless everyone… is persuaded that Iran’s ambitions can be contained and that it is not pursuing an atomic bomb, saboteurs lie in ambush down the road.
But politicians and diplomats who have dealt with Iranian leaders in recent months are convinced they want a deal. “It is quite striking how they are moving,” says a senior European diplomat with direct knowledge of the talks. “They are the ones giving this momentum (because) for them it’s a game-changer.” A prominent Iranian ally in the region says, “They are entirely focused on this”, and that there will be much else to discuss if a nuclear deal becomes, as both sides cautiously anticipate, the catalyst for wider understanding over regional conflicts such as Syria and Iraq.
Yet, as the row over Mr. Aboutalebi attests, visceral American mistrust of Iran… is still around. Iranians are proud heirs to an ancient culture of richness and resilience, resentful at having been the plaything of imperial powers since the 19th century and, above all, the 1953 Anglo-American coup that toppled an elected nationalist government that presumed to nationalize the oil industry. Today’s (leaders) have easily (used) the right to enrich uranium (as) a modern proxy of the sovereign right to own the country’s oil wealth.
But the signs so far favor pragmatism. President Barack Obama faced down attempts by Congress, egged on by Israel, to ratchet up rather than slightly ease sanctions as talks go on, all but tarring his opponents as warmongers. U.S. public opinion is… overwhelmingly opposed to new adventures in the Middle East – and war with Iran would be the mother of all regional wars. An Iran with a stake in resolving the lethal problems of the Middle East, rather than incentives to destabilize it, could be transformative.
Some negotiators are already predicting that if Tehran secures a nuclear deal – recognizing its right to enrich uranium under strict outside monitoring – Iran could help foster Syria’s transition out of a ruinous war.
Iran, for its part, senses that international reintegration of its sanctions-stricken economy is essential to its ambition to become a recognized regional power.
It is worth recalling, too, that the U.S. and UK are not the only imperial specters in Iran’s political culture. Russia occupied swaths of Iran beyond the end of the Second World War, and the Pahlavi dynasty of the deposed shah was founded by a Cossack officer. Iran would not flinch at dumping Vladimir Putin’s Russia – its ally of convenience on Syria and sanctions-busting. Russia may soon discover, as the U.S. has finally learnt, that old grudges die hard in Iran. And, if the U.S. and EU come round to seeing Russia as a real threat to their interests as a result of Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its threat to east Ukraine, then a deal with Iran that dilutes Russian influence in the Middle East is a bonus.
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