By Seyyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour
Following the finalization of a recent interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers in Geneva, Switzerland, which is known as the Joint Plan of Action, the Iranian nuclear case has been a topic of daily political analysis across the world. As a result, analytical circles have evaluated various aspects of this interim agreement. The intensity, diversity, and contents of the ongoing discussions around the Geneva nuclear agreement is such that from this standpoint there are fewer phenomena in regional and international politics which can be compared with it. Without a doubt, during contemporary times, especially during the past 10 years in which Iran’s nuclear case has become international, few other topics have drawn as much attention from analysts as well as executive and foreign policy officials as the Geneva Joint Plan of Action. From presidents of various countries to columnists in different newspapers in the remotest parts of the world, many have been discussing this issue, and as a result, a certain form of polarization as well as a wide spectrum of different and even conflicting viewpoints have emerged on this issue. How, therefore, can we analyze what happened in Geneva in the best possible manner? This issue is the main question to which this article aims to give a rational answer.
Among a heap of political analyses which have been offered on the Geneva Joint Plan of Action, two viewpoints have been sharper and more extreme than others. One of them takes an extremely optimistic approach to this plan while the second approach is radically pessimistic towards it. In reality, however, this event has been a very remarkable development in regional and international politics. The absence of a big picture of this event is the main issue that has led to the emergence of different views and attitudes toward the plan of action and some of those views are extreme and even exaggerated. If this issue is taken into account from a large-scale standpoint, the subsequent analyses would be different as well as more realistic and more positive. This article also represents an effort to delve into these different viewpoints in order to understand them better.
According to this viewpoint, the Geneva interim agreement has put an end to the adoption of new sanctions against Iran and a new chapter will be opened in Iran's foreign relations with the West, especially the United States, as a result of which all the existing problems between the two sides will be solved. Of course, this viewpoint is right to assume that a new chapter will open between the two sides, but the main problem is how to go on from the current point in time. This is a very general viewpoint and is devoid of attention or care for minor details. As a result, it is somehow a reactive viewpoint and hopes that a new era of interactions would begin between all the involved players without taking into account the technical as well as legal and political intricacies of the case. The expectations that will naturally follow the acceptance of this viewpoint will not be beneficial to the national interests of Iran. At the same time, such an overoptimistic viewpoint, which is a reaction to years of pressures and unjust sanctions against the country, falls short of complying with the complicated political realities at domestic, regional and international levels. Even far beyond those realities, this exaggerated positive view which raises extensive expectations and hope for an immediate change, will finally serve as a stumbling block on the way of the Iranian negotiators. On the opposite, there is also a very pessimistic viewpoint which will be considered here.
This viewpoint, on the contrary, pays excessive attention to trivial details. As a result, by discussing all concessions given and taken, it focuses on the text of the agreement from its own cognitive, political and psychological viewpoint, mostly ignoring the efforts which have led to the conclusion of this agreement. This pessimistic approach, which is not exclusive to Iran but also exists in other regional countries and even in the United States, is based on the presumption that the goals of the agreement clinched by Iran and the Western countries are essentially unachievable. The main point that is missed in this approach is that negotiations, per se, are just a process. Negotiations are conducted in order for the negotiating parties to reach an agreement and in any agreement, what is given and taken is determined on the basis of the realities on the ground.
This viewpoint is also not a suitable way to secure the national interests of Iran. This is true because its proponents have excerpted just a few sections, words and phrases out of the complicated text of multilateral negotiations in order to prevent any agreement from being reached and also to make failure the most important result of the negotiations. The proponents of this viewpoint have also forgotten that the Geneva negotiations are not simply the final outcome of efforts made by the negotiating team, but they are the result of an overall consensus that has been reached at various levels of the Islamic Republic of Iran's leadership. Therefore, the powerful political will that has ushered Iran into these negotiations in order to find a final solution to the nuclear case should be also taken into consideration. Reductionism and bringing down the entire course of this national consensus to a few words and phrases is miles away from the reality. Interestingly, such reductionist views are not limited to Iran but they can be also tracked in many other countries. However, beyond all these relatively radical approaches which are characterized with too much optimism or profound pessimism toward the Geneva agreement, there is a prominent and major reality which should be taken into account and that reality is the change in conditions and new developments in regional and international politics.
The Geneva Joint Plan of Action was undoubtedly followed by a political earthquake in the region and the world. The radical factions and groups among the member states of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC), as well as within Israel and the United States administration that were trying to elicit a sharp reaction from Washington against Tehran – even an all-out military strike – have been greatly enraged by this development. Few other developments can be compared to the Geneva agreement in this regard. To confirm this, it will suffice to have a look at a recent article written by the incumbent Saudi Ambassador to London Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud in the New York Times on December 18, 2013. The article, which used a very sharp tone, mostly reflected the viewpoints of Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United States and some other Western allies of Saudi Arabia. It also properly reflected the profound consternation that is felt among some Arab political players in the region as a result of two developments that have taken place in the Middle East. These two phenomena include the case of the ongoing crisis in Syria as well as the Iranian nuclear case. In reality, however, regardless of what interpretation of the Geneva agreement is taken into account, it has the continuation of uranium enrichment in Iran as one of its major and indispensable components. This means that the other negotiating parties have accepted the realities of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Another reality with regard to this agreement is that Iran has managed through its diplomatic self-confidence to clinch an agreement with five major world powers plus Germany, which is apparently willing to be considered among other big powers. That agreement, for its part, has posed a serious challenge to all analyses, viewpoints, and propaganda hype that were promoted by the global empire of Western mass media and research centers. It is noteworthy that for more than a decade, the West and its allies have adopted the most austere restrictive measures and unjust sanctions against Iran under the pretext that the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program may have been diverted toward military purposes. Through the agreement, however, Iran has accepted to make its nuclear program more transparent in order to leave no place for any allegation about diversion in its totally peaceful nuclear program. The diplomatic self-confidence shown by Iran in its negotiations with the big powers has undoubtedly greatly isolated radical factions in the United States, within Israel and elsewhere in the region which had been trying to increase tension in relations between Iran and the United States. They also spared no effort to trigger a military confrontation between the United States and the Islamic Republic in order to deal serious blows to our country.
It should be noted that the deterrent power of Iran and the experience of resistance gained by its people is not a mystery for analysts. However, it is also well known that the radical rightwing politicians in the United States as well as within Israel and certain Arab countries of the region have an avid appetite for warmongering. It is a reality that Iran has changed the situation and this has caused a great earthquake which has demolished the mental, cognitive, political and psychological foundations of the political currents that seek to exclude Iran from regional and global power equations. They are now witnessing that the realities of Iran have found international recognition and the diplomatic finesse of the Islamic Republic has been able to open a new chapter in the political affairs of the region and the world.
To make a long story short, while remaining optimistic and hopeful, we must also not lose moderation with regard to this issue. According to the same argument, the Geneva Joint Plan of Action cannot be totally discarded through pure pessimism. What is now needed is to have a large-scale picture of this important diplomatic achievement in mind. It is an undeniable reality that through diplomatic self-confidence, which has its roots in the country’s domestic potentials, Iran has been able to change the course of politics at both regional and international levels.
*Seyyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour is the former Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative for the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in Geneva. Prior to taking up this post, he was the Director of the Institute for Political and International Studies, the research branch of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. Sajjadpour received his Ph.D. in Political Science from George Washington University and was a post–doctoral fellow at Harvard. He has taught at the College of International Relations of Tehran University, as well as at Azad University and Iran’s National Defense University.
Translated by www.iranreview.org