Despite the breakthrough, John Kerry is right when he says that the “next phase … will be even more difficult”. The harder part of the P5+1-Iran talks was always going to be reaching a lasting comprehensive solution. The lopsided nature of the interim agreement may have further complicated this process.
The feel-good mood engendered by promising overtures from Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani and President Barack Obama has raised hopes for a settlement in the Iranian nuclear crisis. But the devil — especially in this case — is in the details, writes Michael Adler.
Whether Rouhani’s appointment actually results in a radical change in Iran’s relations with the outside world, particularly over its nuclear programme, remains to be seen. While he might portray himself as a moderate, he has spent most of his political career at the heart of Iran’s conservative clerical establishment, says Con Coughlin.
In Teheran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word. But is the “No” of Iran’s spiritual leader really his last word when it comes to negotiating directly with the U.S. in the conflict over his country’s nuclear program?
Maybe not. His position must be seen in the context of Iran’s domestic politics – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is not in Khamenei’s good books, only has four more months in office. Taking such a huge step as starting to reconcile with the U.S. – something most Iranians want – is not going to take place while Ahmadinejad is in office.
Israel’s January 22 elections will produce a new government. The extent to which it will differ from the outgoing government remains to be seen. But efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons might be affected. Could the composition of a new Israeli government indirectly impact the Israeli-U.S. discourse on Iran’s nuclear program?
Assuming the January 22 Israeli elections will be followed by some three to six weeks of negotiations on the formation of the country’s next governing coalition, Israel’s new government will be sworn in sometime between mid-February and mid-March 2013. By that time, the decision making environment surrounding Iran’s nuclear efforts is likely to be affected by two vectors: One is the expected further evolution of Iran’s nuclear program. The other is the likely efforts of the United States to reach a negotiated resolution of the nuclear conflict with Iran.
Senior officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will meet with Iranian counterparts in Tehran on December 13. The IAEA is prepared to visit a building located at Parchin, a site that Iran says is a conventional military facility but where the IAEA believes Tehran may have carried out tests related to the development of nuclear arms.
If the IAEA does not ask questions about what happened at Parchin and some other sites where it believes Iran carried out nuclear-weapons-related work in the past, it will be easier for Iran to cut a deal with the United States and other powers to end the Iranian nuclear crisis. But such an agreement with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1) will be less effective in detecting whether Iran in the future is secretly developing nuclear arms.
The debate on Iran and its nuclear program does little credit to the U.S. foreign policy community, because much of it rests on dubious assumptions that do not stand up to even casual scrutiny. Lots of ink, pixels, and air-time has been devoted to discussing whether Iran truly wants a bomb, how close it might be to getting one, how well sanctions are working, whether the mullahs in charge are “rational,” and whether a new diplomatic initiative is advisable. Similarly, journalists, politicians and policy wonks spend endless hours asking if and when Israel might attack and whether the United States should help. But we hardly ever ask ourselves if this issue is being blown wildly out of proportion.