The interim nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran, which has been aimed at easing the current economic sanctions against the Islamic republic in return for Iran’s halting the uranium enrichment was implemented on January 20 this year and is already showing the observable effect. According to a special briefing on Iran presented on the same day by the White House, the P5+1 and the EU were determined that the Islamic republic was complying with her responsibilities as followed from the IAEA report, thereby having made the implementation of the reciprocal measures possible. In particular, the U.S. allowed for a modest financial relief in sanctions with the overwhelming majority of financial sanctions to have remained in place.
However, the next stage of the negotiation process between the world powers and Iran is likely to be both definitive and more complicated, as a result of the President Obama administration’s promise to provide the international community with the assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. The U.S. would have to make sure that Iran follows the conditions she agreed to when the Islamic republic has already shown extreme confidence and unshakable steadiness by having evaded the participation in the UN conference on Syria in Montreux. She has done so at a time when the international community, in its absolute majority, came to the realization that there was a need for the Syrian government and the opposition to finally meet and present their claims against each other in an open and civilized discussion. The question of whether the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, avoided the conference on his own initiative, or whether he was denied the invitation by the international community for not wanting to negotiate with the “foreign-sponsored terrorists” lost its relevance at the moment when Rouhani took the stage in Davos. The President made a winning and almost faultless appearance at the World Economic Forum, having shown himself as a moderate and prudent politician to talk peace.
There were a couple of crucial points in the speech of the President Rouhani. In the best of eastern manners, he reminded the world leaders that Iran was a power to be reckoned with and that “all of us were in the same boat”. It followed that Rouhani’s Iran was absolutely ready to cooperate with the international community on humanitarian crisis in Syria and to fight against extremism and terrorism but that cooperation would be possible only with those states “that Iran has officially recognized”. That said, it is not quite clear how the Iranian regime sees a peaceful and stable Middle East without Israel’s participation, let alone Iran’s sharing ideology with Hezbollah and their common support for the status quo in Syria. This thinking could be explained by Rouhani’s conviction that the U.S. global dominance was over, something that he carefully hinted at during his speech. The reason for such decadence, he assumed, to be found in greedy consumerism and destruction of intergenerational resources. Rouhani stressed the importance of culture, spirituality and ethics, which, according to the President, have to go hand in hand with the nation’s economic wellbeing. At the same time, there was no single word said about the religion (or the unethical speculation of that by certain fighting groups in Syria), but there was also little doubt that the ethics the Iranian leader was referring to should have naturally stemmed from Islam. Mr. Rouhani made clear that Iran had no choice but to react accordingly to economic pressure that the country has been subjected to.
The most contradictive point stated by Rouhani was that Iran “never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons”. No matter how surprising it may sound, the contradiction regarding Iran’s nuclear program was found in the Russian print too. In her 2008 article in Pro et Contra, Rose Gottemoeller wrote that in early 2002, Russian experts acknowledged in private conversations that the Iranians had outwitted them by having implemented the uranium enrichment program, far exceeding the most challenging assumptions about their capabilities. As Gottemoeller writes, the Iranians undermined the confidence of the Russian officials, who believed that they were able to control Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Few would know but that was the reason why Moscow shortly afterwards, ceased the negotiations on the supply of the nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
The situation around the Iranian nuclear program will only escalate and the reason is that the Iranian republic does not see her right to enrich uranium as a negotiable aspect of any talks whatsoever. This has been a decades-old dispute and since the U.S. was reluctant to accept Iran’s nuclear ambitions in times of the American overall wellbeing, there is no reasonable explanation to suggest that she would recognize them at the time of her somewhat geopolitical decline. On top of that, Iran’s overall nuclear expertise is a matter of national pride and prestige. Iranians see it as one of the features of their historical distinctiveness and as a tool to resist the “alien values” of the West. The cultural gap between the two is enormous and the civilizational conflict has been in place from the outset of the negotiations. The reality is that Iran would have to temporarily give up parts of her nuclear program development for the prospect of playing a more significant role in the world market. Whether Iran accepts such rules and plays accordingly, is another question but it has to be taken seriously, primarily by those in the U.S., who took the responsibility for the interim nuclear deal.