Talks on Iran’s nuclear program that technically entered a fourth day in Geneva ended just after midnight on Sunday morning, on an up-note.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told exhausted journalists that in fact the talks had been very productive and positive. “We do have our differences”, Zarif said, “but that’s why we’re here…because of our differences”. But, Zarif indicated, he thought there could be agreement on a resolution at the next meeting, now set for 20 November [also in Geneva].
“What we were looking for was political will and determination, in order to end this phase and move to an end game’, Zarif said at the press conference. “I think we are all on the same wavelength”.
Analysts have said that the failure to agree on a deal tonight, however, will open the way for a campaign with renewed strength by its opponents, including inside Iran, inside the US, and also in Israel — where Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has vowed to go it alone against the perceived Iranian threat — and even to do “whatever is necessary” to defend the security of the state of Israel.
Iran has been subject to an increasingly tough sanctions regime imposed by the UN Security Council since 2006, and also bilaterally by the US + the EU for refusing to stop its uranium enrichment. When Iran did not stop its enrichment, the U.S, pushed for several sets of increasingly restrictive and punitive sanctions. They have had a biting sting, but Iran has only increased it’s efforts. One of Iran’s main arguments against the sanctions is not about the suffering they’ve caused, but is rather to say that they haven’t worked — and that Iran has despite — and to spite — the sanctions, their scientists and technicians have been able to increase their enriched-uranium production capacity from a couple of hundred enrichment centrifuges, to something like 14,000 now.
Iranian elections earlier this year saw confrontational and “defiant” President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who’d served the maximum two terms, replaced with “reformist” Hassan Rouhani. [Rouhani is a former nuclear negotiator who had previously tried, but failed — due to the opposition of the US under George W. Bush — to reach a deal with major powers that disapproved of Iran’s Islamic revolutionary tendencies].
The election and inauguration of Rouhani raised hopes of a possibility of accomodation — even as Israel raised heightened alarms about the advance in Iran’s nuclear prowess which Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu argues mean inevitable weaponization, and a severe threat to Israel.
Netanyahu’s warnings have become increasingly strident in recent weeks, as the negotiations with Iran appeared to move forward. Netanyahu is opposed to any deal other than the complete dismantling of Iran’s uranium enrichment program and shutting down some of its nuclears installations [which, yes, does conform with what UN Security Council has demanded].
Haaretz wrote in an editorial that “Netanyahu continues to view the very diplomatic move itself as an existential threat, because it will leave Iran with a nuclear capability that could be transformed within a short period into bomb-making capability. ‘Israel is not obliged by this agreement’, Netanyahu said, nudging Israel toward the status of a country that is threatening the international consensus…Netanyahu can disagree with the American conception of how to best thwart Iran’s aspirations, but boasting of Israel’s ability to thumb its nose at the international diplomatic process is a dangerous threat in itself”. This is published here.
There was apparently a very difficult meeting between Netanyahu and Secretary of State Kerry at Ben Gurion Airport on Friday, just before Kerry headed off to attend the talks in Geneva. A joint press conference was cancelled, and Netanyahu came before the cameras to say dramatically and vehemently that the deal being considered in the Geneva talks was “a Very.Bad.Deal.”