It has been over a year since the Iran nuclear talks have started. At their birth, they were portrayed as a simple exchange between willing sides: The West wanted to get Iran in line in all nuclear-related issues, while Iran wanted its economic sanctions removed. After over a year, it seems that nothing could be more complicated and the nuclear deal remains as elusive as ever.
But the situation just gets more and more complicated. It sometimes even looks as if Tehran is actually trying to sabotage the deal since no deal might be a better deal for Iran. The supreme leader Khamenei narrowed the teams negotiating rope a few times. Take Ali Larijani, Iran’s Parliament speaker, latest take on the negotiations and the issue of centrifuges: “This is something like a trivial matter and we should not bargain over trivial matters” said Larijani, in an effort to conceal that it is precisely the amount of centrifuges that the P5+1 are worried about.
Apart from the number of centrifuges, there are, of course, other obstacles: “the still ambiguous status of the Arak heavy water reactor; the PMD’s (possible military dimensions) which remain unaddressed; the verification methods given Iran’s deceit in the past; unanswered questions posed by the IAEA to Iran; and last but not least, the question of when and how much of the sanctions imposed on Iran will be lifted, whether they will be lifted at all, or, as put by US negotiator Wendy Sherman, they will simply be suspended.”
As far as Tehran is concerned, they are not prepared to compromise in any way its current nuclear program (which Rouhani brokered back in 2005) since any diminishment would seem to diminish the power of the regime. This world view is not limited to the nuclear issue but includes all forms of “interference” which might lead to a “capitulation” of the regime to external pressure.
This view is predominant in Tehran’s exasperating attitude towards accusations of human rights abuses. It is obvious to all except for some hard-core Iranian fanatics, that Tehran’s definitions of human rights do not fit those of the UN/West. And yet, the regime in Tehran keeps on claiming that these accusations are “unfair” and simply “Islamophobic”/”Iranophobic”. Tehran still does not realize that all efforts at denying obvious human rights abuses reflect on the veracity of its claims of innocence in the nuclear issue.
There is also the continued anti-west rhetoric, stating that the Jihad will continue all the time that America exists. The US is still deemed by many Iranian leaders, including Khamenei, as “the enemy” and Tehran has not spared any criticism for the US lead coalition against ISIS.
Furthermore, the Iranians are repeatedly bragging of their military might, parading new missiles, radars and drones which does not rub well with the P5+1 who have not succeeded in linking the nuclear negotiations with Iran’s military developments.
Iran’s FM Zarif, who personifies the Iranian negotiations, further exasperates the West by switching constantly from open optimism to guarded pessimism to apocalyptic warnings. To date, the P5+1 team, as well as the rest of the world, don’t know how to deal with these diplomatic “zig-zags”.
His Supreme Leader, Khamenei, is less prone to zig-zagging and is generally pessimistic and hostile to the West (specially the US) in its efforts to get Iran to toe the line. For him, the US/West is still an oppressive and “arrogant” enemy which has to be outwitted and overcome in order to fulfill his vision of an Islamic Awakening led by Tehran and himself.
To conclude this, one might be influenced by Rouhani’s optimism and positive thinking, especially his belief that a deal is certain. But as we learned from the past – Rouhani is not always the one who holds the power in the regime.