With July 20, 2014 deadline approaching fast for concluding a comprehensive agreement to resolve the issue of Iranian nuclear program, talks between the concerned parties in Vienna seem more urgent than ever for overcoming the differences that have so far impeded the progress.
Ever since the 1980s when the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed doubts about the peaceful intentions of Tehran’s nuclear program, the world community has raised alarms over the risks involved in the nuclear program, which outsiders assume that Iran’s leadership is inclined to build nuclear weapons under the guise of civilian nuclear energy program.
Of all the anxieties shown over such program, the 2002 IAEA report questioning the compliance of Iran with the international obligations devolving upon it from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of the Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has prompted Iran and the global powers like the U.S. and the EU to seriously engage in negotiations to explore the peaceful settlement of nuclear problem.
Following critical reports of the IAEA alleging Iran of failing to meet its international obligations under the NPT, which is to refrain from seeking or building nuclear weapons, the UN Security Council has punished Tehran by imposing severe economic sanctions. Feeling the pressure of biting sanctions Iranian leaders have demonstrated their willingness to sit for negotiations with the international community, which is at present represented by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Under the framework of P-5+Germany several rounds of talks to resolve the Iranian nuclear impasse have taken place so far and fortunately an interim agreement on the subject was sealed between that group and Iran almost six months ago. That temporary agreement was possible because of the conciliatory approach taken by the new Iranian president Hasan Rauhani, who since his coming into power following the last election, has signaled to the U.S. that his country is willing to negotiate in good faith for resolving the nuclear issue.
In his widely-quoted opinion piece “Time to Engage” published by “The Washington Post” on September 19, 2013 president Hasan Rauhani has sounded optimistic. He has said “International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition occur simultaneously. World leaders are expected to lead in treating threats into opportunities.”
With such cooperative gestures displayed by the new leader of Iran, the country has been found meeting its obligations arising from interim nuclear agreement as follows:
- Elimination of its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium.
- Limitation of country’s enrichment capability by not installing or starting up additional centrifuges.
- Refraining from making further advances at its enrichment facilities and heavy water reactor.
- Permission for new and more frequent inspections.
Looking at the above list one feels that Iran has progressed a lot in assuring the international community that its nuclear program has civilian purposes only. Nevertheless, the western world has not been fully convinced of Iran’s commitment to match its words with commensurate action.
Echoing such skepticism on the part of Iran in fulfilling its commitment to reassure the world community about Iranian true intentions behind the nuclear program, the U.S. secretary of State, John Kerry has written an article in The Washington Post (June 30, 2014).
In the article entitled “Iranian Nuclear Deal Still is Possible but Time is Running Out”, John Kerry has forewarned the Iranian leaders that they have two hard choices to make. Either the Iranian leaders assure the world that their nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful or they can squander a historic opportunity to end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation and improve the lives of their people.
Iran, as claimed by John Kerry, can disprove the presumption that it has been secretly building nuclear weapons and establish the proposition that all its nuclear activities are designed to meet civilian needs. But to do so Iran has to take a number of measures that remove the suspicion among the members of the international community that Iran is not intending to fulfill the civilian nuclear requirements only.
In this vein the American Secretary of State has recalled the Geneva Joint Plan of Action (June 24, 2013) concerning the steps that are to be taken to resolve the nuclear imbroglio of Iran. That agreement basically deals with key parts of Iranian nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief from some economic sanctions. If implemented in full measure, the above mentioned Joint Plan of Action will constitute a first pause in the country’s nuclear program in more than a decade. Additionally, agreement’s implementation will make it virtually impossible for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon without being detected.
This scribe has time and again argued through this paper that any resolution of Iran’s nuclear issue depends on the unhindered exercise of the country’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. No doubt that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of the Nuclear Weapons provides all of its members the right to peacefully exploit nuclear energy. Peaceful use of nuclear energy by any member of the NPT is linked to simultaneous obligation on the part of the member to comply with the relevant articles of the treaty. Such articles require the treaty members to refrain from using nuclear fuel and related technology from manufacturing atomic bombs.
As Iran’s president has stated that in today’s world both cooperation and competition can go hand in hand, there appears a window of opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue diplomatically. Based on the interim agreement between P-5+ Germany and Iran and the subsequent nuclear talks between them since then, we can hope that a constructive approach to diplomacy can produce a comprehensive deal that will stop Iran from building nuclear weapons and lead to the lifting of all UN sanctions as well as multinational and national sanctions imposed on Iran, which will bring prosperity to all.