In the past few weeks, there have been tough negotiations in Lausanne, on Lake Geneva, in the heart of Switzerland. Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany) are trying to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program. However, this is not entirely about Iran; it is also about the future. The accord being negotiated here 92 years after the Geneva Convention of 1923 has the chance to be just as historic, albeit in completely different ways. It could determine the future spread of nuclear weapons and redefine relations between nuclear weapon states and their non-nuclear rivals. It could also mark the start of a new era in Iran’s relationship with the West.
Yet these talks have several negotiators with conflicting interests. These could be put into four groups: the US as leader of the talks, Iran of course, Israel, and the rest of the P5+1.
The US was the first one to speak up against the Iranian nuclear program in 2002 when they accused Iran of attempting to make nuclear weapons. This was followed up with a resolution passed unanimously by the UN Security Council, which placed economic sanctions on Iran. Relations with Iran froze for a few years until 2013. The US began secret talks with Iran, which were later widened to the P5+1 and to the public.
Iran is not willing to give up its so-called peaceful nuclear program, which would give the nation a cheap energy resource. They want the sanctions to be lifted, which they claim are unfair and self-righteously imposed by the US. However, the peacefulness of the program was quite questionable from the start: first, Iran didn’t let the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigators examine all their procedures. Also, some of the procedures, especially the use of centrifuges) have led to suspicions that Iran may be enriching uranium for weapons. A further problem is that Iran wants its sanctions to be lifted at once, yet the West is considering a bit-by-bit framework. The West (and most prominently France) fear that an immediate agreement would lift all sanctions at once, but then Iran wouldn’t want to meet their commitments, giving Tehran a head start. As John Kerry said earlier in March, the agreement should not be “…based on trust but based on intensive verification.”
Before the Israeli elections Benjamin Netanyahu promised that for as long as he remains president, Iran would not have nuclear weapons. He has tried to live up to his words even before the elections when he accepted the invitation of the Republican Party to address Congress. He said that Iran should capitulate without conditions, and the West should not give in to their demands, which is of course nonsense.
Israel opposes such possibilities and fears it since it would be a likely target of Iranian nuclear weapons. It won’t give any advantage to Iran, even if that results in worsening US relations. Recently Israel, lacking US support, reached out to France as a new ally to confront Iran in the talks, as before.
The rest of the negotiators
The UK, Germany and France have long opposed Iran’s nuclear ambitions, being those who started the sanctions. French President Hollande declared that he is not willing to yield to Iranian demands. China once again remains silent and is trying to gain the benefit of not participating.
Russia is also just looking at the issue from their national interest, even if it has close ties with Iran. This makes their position more complicated, however, they are trying to remain as objective and business-orientated as possible. They don’t fear any possible Iranian nuclear weapons, but they don’t welcome them either. Moscow is just trying to maintain their growing cooperation with Tehran.
What can we expect
It is hard to speculate about this issue, but we can see some tendencies. The US is trying to find a balance between Israel and Iran, while they are being “helped” by the Republicans. Israel is trying to remain the only state in the area to possess nuclear weapons and will do anything to eliminate their proliferation in Iran. And some in the West just want peace, while others want economic benefits. And Iran: it’s a more problematic part to predict what they want. As their influence is growing in the region they are seeking legitimacy and security. With the talks? Hard to tell. Deadlines have expired, and so Iran has just gained time for the further possible development of nuclear weapons and the clearing of evidence. The only question which remains is whether their delays are intentional or not?
Originally published by Közgazdász, Hungary’s oldest university newspaper.