Current developments in the Iranian Nuclear stand-off
Ali Ardashir Larijani, the speaker of Iranian parliament in an interview to TV channel announced that Iran was a nuclear power. Though he qualified the statement by saying that Iran would always use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, Larijani’s statement has raised a number of questions.
Does the statement mean that Iran has mastered the nuclear technology but has taken a political decision not to make nuclear weapons or Larijani is hinting that his country has perfected a weapon design too but has not tested it yet. The statement may have political notions for domestic consumptions.The other aspect is the domestic angle of current talks: presidential elections in Iran. How much leverage does current president has and is he in a position to give concessions or make a deal? Answers to these questions are unlikely to be immediately available.
Iran’s policy of developing nuclear technology is well known. It considers possession of this technology its sovereign right and continues to pursue it in the face of opposition by Western powers and consequences of economic sanctions imposed by the international community. The suffering caused by the economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure by major powers failed to shake the resolve of Iranian nation.
If reviewed in the perspective of certain political and strategic developments in the region in which Iran is located, Larijani’s statement has much deeper significance. Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is precariously placed in the wake of violent opposition to his rule.
Armed opposition groups have clashed with the Syrian armed forces resulting in hundreds of deaths. Opposition forces to the regime have the support of major Western powers including the USA.
Israel has conducted raids inside Syrian territories and Israel has been threatening Iran and blaming it for providing weapons and funds to Hezbollah. Hezbollah had fought against the Israeli armed forces and caused considerable damage. In short, Iran is placed in a troubled region. Israel with its nuclear weapons and missiles has the ability to attack and destroy economic and military targets in Iran.
Larijani’s statement may also been seen in the background of talks being held by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with Iranian authorities ahead next round of talks between Iran and Six world powers being held in Kazakhistan.
According to IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safeguards Herman Nackaerts the “goal of negotiations with Iran is to finalize structured approach document.” Iran expects that negotiations with IAEA will protect its right to peaceful use of nuclear energy. How far Iran is willing to concede IAEA the right to inspect all its nuclear facilities is an important issue. This is particularly significant for the nuclear facility at Parchin military base near Tehran where Iran is suspect to be engaged in nuclear weapons research.
Tehran has reiterated its willingness to co-operate with IAEA and respect all agreements with the Agency. Much will depend on the outcome of talks at Tehran and subsequently in Kazakhistan. Tehran has shown its willingness to co-operate.
Further movement on this issue will help to reduce the tension in the region. As Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator said that he believed the Almaty meeting could be a “turning point.” Outcome of the Almaty talks to continue talking is useful as it is better than not talking at all.
President Obama is his State of the Union address stressed on Iran to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue.The scheduled meetings are positive signs for a diplomatic way out for disputed nuclear Iran. Though the two sides agreed to hold expert-level talks in Istanbul on March 18 to discuss the Western powers’ proposals and return to Almaty for political discussions on April 5-6.
The other important point is Western stake in negotiations other than nuclear proliferation included an easing of a ban on trade in gold and other precious metals and a relaxation of an import embargo on Iranian petrochemical products.
The trade aspect could be used as leverage by Iran. Although Iran was upbeat on February 27, 2013 after talks with world powers about its nuclear stance with conformity to meet again, but Western officials alleged it had yet to take concrete steps to relieve their fears and concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
(The writer is a researcher at CISS, Islamabad)