|Opportunity created by Rohani’s election should be seized: article||
TEHRAN – The opportunity created by the election of moderate Hassan Rohani as Iran’s new president should be seized to resolve the nuclear dispute between Iran and the West, according to an article published by Project Syndicate on Monday.
Following are excerpts of the text of the article written by Joschka Fischer, who served as German foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005:
No one could have reckoned with Hassan Rohani’s victory in Iran’s presidential election.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the launch, at the foreign-minister level, of negotiations between Iran and the European triumvirate of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom on Iran’s nuclear program. I was there, representing Germany; so was Rohani, who led the Iranian delegation.
The talks have continued until today – in an expanded format that includes Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the P5+1) – without any tangible results. Now Rohani returns to the risky business of Iran’s nuclear program, though this time as President. What can we – and he – expect?
Based on my personal experience, Rohani is a polite and open character. Unlike outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he surrounds himself with very skillful and experienced diplomats. But there should be no doubt that he is… a realist and moderate member of the Islamic Republic’s political elite… And, of course, he backs Iran’s nuclear program.
If Rohani wants to succeed in office, he will have to keep his promise to improve Iranians’ living conditions without endangering the Islamic Republic in the process. That will not be easy; in fact, it could amount to trying to square a circle.
The economic improvement that voters demanded in electing Rohani can almost certainly be achieved only if Western and international sanctions are lifted. But an end to international sanctions presupposes a breakthrough in the nuclear negotiations.
It may also presuppose at least a temporary settlement of the main regional conflicts. The Middle East has changed dramatically in the last ten years. America has reduced its involvement, having withdrawn its troops from Iraq and winding down its engagement in Afghanistan by next year. At the same time, we are witnessing the dissolution of the old Middle East created by France and Britain after World War I, when Europe’s two great colonial powers created territorial mandates in Palestine, Syria (including present-day Lebanon), Transjordan, and Iraq.
A new regional order is not yet discernible, which points to a future fraught with risk and possible chaos. As Iran seeks to assert its influence and interests, as well as those of its Shia allies, its dispute with the Security Council over its nuclear program has become closely tied to its regional ambitions.
Iran and its international interlocutors should learn from the past and manage expectations accordingly. There will not be any quick solutions (if, indeed, there are any solutions at all), given the parties’ diametrically opposed interests, their respective domestic and alliance-related obstacles, and a profound lack of trust on all sides.
Moreover, aside from negotiating with the P5+1, Iran would be well advised to launch direct negotiations with the United States. It will also most likely have to improve its relations with Saudi Arabia and the (Persian) Gulf states… if a positive result is to be achieved.
Rohani must seek a path that does not cost him the support of the majority of the (country’s) power centers, yet that also allows him to fulfill the mandate he received from voters. At home, too, massive distrust will further complicate an inherently difficult task.
… Rohani’s presidency offers an unexpected opportunity for both the nuclear negotiations and a political solution in Syria. Iran’s participation in an international peace conference is an absolute necessity, if only to test Rohani’s seriousness. During the Afghanistan conference in Bonn in 2001, Iran behaved in a pragmatic, results-oriented way – an approach that went completely unrewarded by the U.S.
As for the nuclear negotiations, the P5+1 will focus on objective guarantees that leave Iran no path toward military use of its nuclear capabilities. For Iran, the focal point of its efforts will be recognition of its right to civilian use of nuclear energy, in keeping with the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its protocols. Both issues sound simpler than they are: the devil is in the details, and the details leave ample scope for disagreement over the definition, monitoring, and enforcement of terms.
Again, maintaining realistic expectations must be paramount. A successful outcome in the nuclear negotiations and resolution or even containment of the main regional conflicts will be difficult to achieve. But it would be the height of irresponsibility not to seize the unexpected opportunity created by Rohani’s election with all the strength, good faith, and creativity we can muster.
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