Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry met in New York to discuss ways of resolving the standoff about Iran's nuclear program. This was the first official meeting between Iran's foreign minister and his American counterpart in 34 years. While there has been much media hype about the meetings between officials of the two countries, it is yet to be seen whether any breakthrough will occur.
26 September 2013, 18:25 EDT
American officials demanded ahead of talks between Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his counterparts from the P5+1 countries and EU Foreign Policy Advisor Catherine Ashton in New York today, that the Islamic Republic should accept the “offer” made by the “international community” over its nuclear program.
What is the “offer” that is being touted so much ahead of a meeting at which Iran’s Foreign Minister will sit in the same room with the US Secretary of State for the first time in 34 years?
Iran must halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20%. Tehran has also been asked to shut down the Fordow underground enrichment facility near Qum.
And what is being offered to Iran in return: easing of sanctions on some unspecified items in the future? How far into the future is also not specified.
Iran had done more than that in 2003 when Dr Hassan Rohani, the newly elected president of Iran, was his country’s chief nuclear negotiator. He agreed to suspend uranium enrichment altogether. Further, Iran accepted Additional Protocols on inspections. These allowed intrusive un-announced inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Further, the inspectors even went to non-nuclear military sites not connected with the nuclear issue.
These inspections continued until 2005 but the West did not ease any sanctions on Iran. Instead, additional sanctions were imposed.
This is what President Rohani was referring to when he said in his address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that Iran was prepared to engage in "time-bound and results-oriented" talks. He was more specific in his interview with the Washington Post yesterday saying he would like to settle the nuclear file within three to six months. In other words, he did not want an open-ended process in which Iran gives up its rights but the West continues with its illegal and inhumane sanctions.
President Rohani also called for stricter controls on nuclear weapons, eventually eliminating all weapons from the world. "No nation should possess nuclear weapons; since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons," he said, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement at the General Assembly.
It is quite revealing that while American officials have been talking up Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program, the US air force tested a Minuteman nuclear missile hours before President Rohani was to address the General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. The US has more than 10,000 nuclear weapons in its arsenal of which more than 5800 are active. It is also manufacturing the next generation of more lethal nuclear weapons.
Before Zarif went to meet his counterparts from P5+1, he and President Rohani had a meeting with Ashton. It is clear that the nuclear issue was discussed in detail for each side to assess the other in how far they were prepared to go. Ashton called the meeting substantial.
During the Zarif-P5+1 talks, it was reported that substantial progress had been made and that they would meet again in Geneva on October 15. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Kerry insisted there would be no easing of sanctions unless Iran complied with international demands and the West was satisfied that Iran was not making a nuclear bomb.
This appears to be the old game being repeated endlessly. True, it could also be posturing but only time will tell whether the US is really serious about resolving this issue or is simply stringing Iran along.
Zarif insisted that the endgame of these talks has to be the complete lifting of all sanctions against Iran.