EFFORTS to revive the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the Austrian capital of Vienna appear to be deadlocked, and unless all parties concerned decide to amend their respective stance, chances of success look slim. The Iranian side wants significant changes to the agreement and a lifting of all sanctions. The UK, France and Germany, also representing the US, have adopted a more rigid position, asking Tehran to return to the original deal. However, it should be remembered that the latter deal was scuttled when Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018, reimposing crushing sanctions on Iran even though neutral observers were of the view that Tehran was in compliance with requirements. The crisis then has been clearly precipitated by that rash move, and the Western side has shown no great inclination to rebuild trust with Tehran, instead addressing the latter in patronising terms. There may well be a conservative president in the saddle in Tehran adopting a tougher negotiating position, but the Iranian establishment as a whole is much more suspicious of the West after the country accrued zero benefits from the nuclear deal. Moreover, Israel’s irresponsible statements urging the West to shun negotiations with Iran are only vitiating the atmosphere and greatly hurting chances of peace.

As talks resume next week, the West will need to bring something more to the table, while Iran may want to rationally consider the offer. Reports from within the meeting room indicate that the atmosphere is tense, with Iran calling upon the Europeans not to ‘threaten’ them, while the Chinese delegation has accused the Western side of ‘hypocrisy’. At another level, the nuclear talks reflect the greater geopolitical tensions in the world, as the Western bloc faces off against a loose alliance of Russia, China, Iran and others. Efforts to revive the deal should continue, and through it, normalise ties between Iran and the West. But it will need immense effort to dispel the distrust of the past four decades. Both sides ought to show vision and statesmanship, and approach each other with due respect. Indeed, if the Europeans and Americans use threatening language, Iran will further harden its stance, ensuring that the deal and any chances of normalisation are buried for the foreseeable future. Moreover, rogue elements that are calling for abandoning the negotiations must be ignored by the world community and not allowed to sabotage peace efforts.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2021

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