In November, Iran, led by current president Hassan Rouhani, and the P5+1, comprised of the 5 permanent members on the UN Security Council (United States, China, Russia, United Kingdom, France) and Germany, came to terms regarding the cessation of certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lessening of non-major sanctions against Iran due to said production.
Today, talks between Iran and the EU started once again in Geneva. While the initial terms of the agreement accounted for a six month period in which the final terms would be negotiated, the terms of the six month agreement are still being debated due to inconsistencies in interpretation: “I hope during the two-day talks we can resolve the remaining technical issues which are based on our different interpretation of text of the November accord,” stated Iran’s top negotiator Abbas Araqchi.
Whenever negotiations are finished, they will have to be approved not only by Iranian president Rouhani, but also by Ayatollah Khamenei, who serves as the Supreme Leader of Iran. As such, Khamenei is the head political and religious leader of the nation.
Unfortunately, the fact that these negotiations need Khamenei’s approval is worrisome. While Khamenei originally supported the terms laid out by the accord in November, his most recent rhetoric suggests that he is still skeptical of the aims and intentions of the treaty with the US.
“We had announced previously that on certain issues, if we feel it is expedient, we would negotiate with the Satan (the United States) to deter its evil,” stated Khamenei in a speech given to the religious city of Qom. This statement came after Khamenei downplayed the notion that Iran had only entered into negotiations due to the sanctions placed upon the country by the US: “Our enemies do not know the great Iranian nation. They think that their imposed sanctions forced Iran to enter negotiations. No, it is a wrong.”
Khamenei went on to say that the latest discussions between Iran, the P5+1, and the EU “… showed the enmity of America against Iran, Iranians, Islam and Muslims.”
The latest controversy surrounding the original accord deals with what programs Iran will have to cease in order for the sanctions to be lifted. While Rouhani and Iran continue to insist that Iran’s nuclear program has only peaceful, energy-producing ends in mind, the western world still worries about the nuclear weapon potentiality of such a program. As such, the powers opposite Iran want large portions of the Iranian nuclear program shut down, such as the development of new centrifuges.
Current negotiations are not only at risk due to differences in interpretation, but also due to actions of certain members of the United States Senate who seek to place even more sanctions upon Iran if the country does not agree to the terms of the nuclear agreement. This move has been met with opposition from conservative members of Iran’s government, who expressed intentions to enrich uranium beyond the 60% mark if the US places new sanctions upon their country.
Many in Iran have tried to abate the fears of westerners who think the Iranian nuclear program will be used for weapons purposes by citing the fatwa, or religious decree, Khamenei has placed against the development or use of nuclear weapons. Mohammad Javiad Larijani, Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, has stated that this fatwa is Iran’s “biggest deterrent factor” against the development of nuclear weapons and holds more weight than “diplomacy and the administration’s policy.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has stated that “The biggest problem will be the next phase because the question that hasn’t been dealt with is: Do our Iranians partners want to just suspend production that could lead to them having a nuclear weapon or do they accept to give it up completely?” Fabius goes one step further and answers this question for us by saying, “Obviously, the second option is what’s acceptable, because the first none of the P5+1 will accept.”
If all negotiations works as planned, powers involved want the terms of the agreement to begin on January 20th, meaning the topic will come to the table once again in July.
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