|U.S. demands should remain consistent with interim nuclear deal: Washington Post||
TEHRAN – In an article posted on the website of the Washington Post on Thursday, the writers say that the demands made the by the United States in the process of talks between Iran and the major powers over the country’s nuclear program should remain consistent with an interim nuclear deal they signed last November.
The following are excerpts of the article written by Farzan Sabet and Aaron Stein:
International negotiations typically play out as “two level games,” with leaders carefully eyeing their domestic political calculations even as they bargain with their foreign counterparts. The EU3+3 talks with Iran over its nuclear program are no different. U.S. domestic constraints are well understood, but what about Iran’s?
Currently almost all of Iran’s major political currents support the negotiations. Still, President Hassan Rouhani faces very real domestic political constraints that could prove fatal to the deal if the United States doesn’t understand them appropriately. While the United States will not agree to a bad deal, it should take advantage of Iran’s delicate and rare consensus and come to an agreement (with Iran over its nuclear program).
Analyzing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s fragmented political system is a … difficult task.
Iran has had political currents based on shifting alliances between important political figures, state centers of power, and key constituencies. Typical taxonomies of key Iranian political currents divide the currents into four categories forming two broad camps: reformists and centrists, who together form the “moderate” camp, and neo- and traditional principalists, who constitute the “conservative” camp. While even these categories are oversimplifications, they do help us to better gauge the Iranian political elite’s level of support for ongoing nuclear negotiations.
There is little doubt that Iran’s moderate camp is committed to the nuclear negotiations. The negotiations are a lynchpin of the centrist Rouhani’s agenda to ease tensions abroad and improve the economy at home. Key reformist figures, such as former president Mohammad Khatami and 2013 presidential candidate Mohammad Reza Aref, have also endorsed the current talks. The moderate camp has been a consistent advocate of a negotiated resolution to the nuclear issue.
The conservative scene, while more complex, underscores the tenuous consensus to negotiate.
Ali Larijani, the influential traditional principalist speaker of the parliament, has supported Iran’s negotiating team. While acknowledging that there are differences of opinion on this issue, Larijani has nonetheless emphasized that “on national interests there is a consensus” and that overall parliament “supports the negotiations.”
The same can be said of traditional principalist senior foreign policy adviser to the Supreme Leader and 2013 presidential candidate Ali Akbar Velayati, who has criticized the previous nuclear negotiating team led by the … Saeed Jalili. Velayati explained, “I did not accept the previous method of negotiations…the method which our negotiators pursue at present is a method which speaks to their experience in negotiations…we are assured of our work and our negotiators.”
The idea that Iranian political elites have closed ranks and are moving forward in negotiations from a common playbook has also been confirmed by the influential Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the parliament’s important foreign policy and national security committee. While discussing the various “links” in the “chain” of Iranian foreign and security policymaking, Boroujerdi noted that the “last link” in this process “is the session formed before the Supreme Leader and in this session the framework of the negotiations has been finalized and the negotiating team negotiates within this framework.”
This consensus is delicate and any number of factors could upset it. Moreover, tangential issues, such as U.S. military intervention in Syria or Western insistence that Iran’s ballistic missile program be included in any final agreement, could also fracture the wide support for the talks inside Iran.
To increase the likelihood of success, the Obama administration should take advantage of this rare convergence of Iran’s divergent political currents to try and reach an agreement.
This approach won’t be easy. As the parties continue working toward an agreement, the United States must be cognizant of its own “hawks” interjecting unrealistic demands into the current negotiations or the post-deal implementation of any agreement.
The focus should be on resolving the narrow set of issues related to the nuclear program, rather than on other, far broader political differences with Iran.
While even moderate demands related to centrifuge numbers could fracture Iran’s nuclear consensus, the introduction of excessive demands could undercut Iran’s delicate political unity. Moreover, a recalcitrant U.S. position also risks fracturing the support of the countries that have agreed to abide by the United States’ extraterritorial sanctions, which the Obama administration needs to keep pressure on Iran.
To prevent the introduction of excessive demands into the negotiations, the Obama administration can begin to outline what it hopes to achieve from an agreement. This will require more transparency about the purported end goal of the talks.
If the Obama administration waits too long, it will risk allowing its own hawks to frame the way in which a possible agreement will be perceived in Washington and abroad. Obama will face pushback from a more hawkish congress, should the EU3+3 reach an agreement with the Iranians, especially in the current highly polarized U.S. election cycle.
To prepare for this backlash, the Obama administration can also begin to signal the ways in which – and the reasons why – it will seek to roll back sanctions. This would signal to Iran the United States’ steadfast commitment to upholding its end of the bargain, while also putting public pressure on Congress to act, should an agreement actually be struck.
It is imperative for U.S. demands to remain consistent with (the interim nuclear deal). And to ensure that U.S. hawks don’t derail the talks via the introduction of tangential issues, which could fracture internal Iranian support for the negotiations, the administration could clearly explain why it is imperative to remain focused on the nuclear issue.
Inside Iran, the consequences of failure would certainly discredit Rouhani’s foreign policy and empower his … critics. While both sides are sure to refrain from agreeing to what they see as a bad deal, both still share an incentive to reach an agreement.
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader