August 17, 2022

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Doha talks will provide good opportunity for Iran and U.S.: professor

TEHRAN – Farhang Jahanpour, a former Senior Fulbright Research Scholar at Harvard, has a positive view toward the new format and venue of the talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Negotiators from Iran and the U.S. resumed indirect talks with the mediation of the European Union in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday in new push to revive the nuclear agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Jahanpour tells the Tehran Times that the talks in Doha “will provide a good opportunity for talks between the two main sides, namely Iran and the United States.”

The professor, who also taught for many years at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, believes “negotiations could be speeded up if the two sides agree to have direct talks, because ultimately the JCPOA is an agreement between Iran and the United States.”

This is the text of the interview:

Question: It has been announced that, instead of continuing the nuclear talks in Vienna as usual, Qatar will host the next round of indirect talks between Iran and the United States. What is your view about the venue and format of the nuclear talks intended to revive the JCPOA?

Answer: It is believed that the main outlines of an agreement for the resumption of the nuclear deal (officially known as the JCPOA or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) that President Trump withdrew from, had been reached under President Rouhani’s government, but the talks were halted as the result of the elections in Iran.

The talks resumed in April 2021 in Vienna after President Raisi’s new nuclear team had been appointed. However, during the early phases of the talks, both Iran and the United States made some extra demands that went beyond the original provisions of the JCPOA. As the two sides failed to reach agreement, the talks broke up on March 11.

Meanwhile, the IAEA Board of Governors passed a censure resolution, calling on Iran to return to the talks. Following that censure resolution, Iran switched off 27 IAEA cameras, but claimed that more than 80% of the Agency’s cameras at Iran’s nuclear sites had remained operational. Also, according to IAEA reports, Iran had said that it would install two additional cascades of IR-6 centrifuges, which were up to eight times more effective than the older IR-1 model that is mainly in operation.

“Main disagreements between Iran and the U.S. are political”

Apart from some regional countries and some right-wing U.S. officials, all the members of the JCPOA, including Iran and the United States, are in favour of renewing the deal. As the talks remained stalled and the nuclear deal was on the verge of collapse, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell travelled to Iran on June 25 and held talks with Iranian officials. In a joint press conference with the Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, it was announced that the talks would resume soon, not in Vienna but in Qatar. The format of the talks will also be different and they will concentrate on indirect negotiations between Iran and the United States. The U.S. lead negotiator Robert Malley will travel to Qatar and indirect talks will be held between him and the Iranian side.

I believe that following the failure of the Vienna talks, this is a good format that will provide a good opportunity for talks between the two main sides, namely Iran and the United States. The negotiations could be speeded up if the two sides agree to have direct talks, because ultimately the JCPOA is an agreement between Iran and the United States, with other sides involved in order to give it more authority and guarantee its implementation. 

Question: Can the talks in Qatar carry a positive message for regional security as well?

Answer: I believe that the talks in Qatar can convey a positive message for regional security because most of the other disputes in the region and between Iran and other leading regional countries revolve round the JCPOA. If the deal is renewed to the satisfaction of both sides it can lead to a new era of cooperation not only between Iran and the West, but also between Iran and regional countries.

Question: Even some senators in the Democratic party oppose the restoration of the JCPOA. They also don’t present an alternative. However, what is their ulterior motive?

 “The best way to achieve Iran’s cooperation is through rapprochement and reaching deals such as the JCPOA, because the alternative would be disastrous for both sides and for the world.”

Answer: In the United States, as in many other Western countries, there are some powerful lobbies that try to influence the politicians in favour of their causes. Some of these lobbies are organised and funded by foreign countries in order to advance their interests. Some senators are opposed to the JCPOA either due to personal conviction or are influenced by those lobbies. The best way to change their minds is to show in practice that Iran is prepared to reach some mutually advantageous agreements and to abide by them, as she did in the case of the JCPOA. If Iran wishes to have some binding agreements that cannot be violated by a future president those agreements must be approved by Congress, and the only way to achieve that is to win the trust of those Congressmen who for whatever reason are opposed to Iran.

Question: Both Tehran and Washington have asked each other to take political decisions to break the impasse to save the nuclear deal.  Do you think that the sides have somehow softened their stances that they have finally agreed to resume talks after a months-long pause?

Answer: I believe that the main disagreements between Iran and the United States are political and have little to do with the technical aspects of the JCPOA. As far as Iran is concerned, Iranian officials have emphatically stressed that they are not after nuclear weapons. Therefore, there is no proliferation issue involved. Their major problem concerns some regional countries that are opposed to Iran’s growing influence and what they see as Iran’s interference in the affairs of the neighbouring countries. A solid agreement with the United States can reassure those countries about Iran’s intentions and can result in better relations between them, especially as serious talks are underway between Iran and Saudi Arabia, mediated by Iraq.

After his shuttle diplomacy and visits to Tehran and Riyadh, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi described his discussions with Iranian and Saudi officials as constructive, adding that “both sides showed maximum positivity.” Iran and Saudi Arabia need to resolve their differences through negotiations, because as two neighbours they have no option but to live in peace together.

As far as the United States is concerned, they should have realised that the former U.S. president’s policy of “maximum pressure” and imposing illegal sanctions on Iran had failed. The best way to achieve Iran’s cooperation is through rapprochement and reaching deals such as the JCPOA, because the alternative would be disastrous for both sides and for the world. At a time when the world is facing multiple problems, including the war in Ukraine, high prices of petrol and energy, high inflation and growing instability in many countries, Iran and the United States must cooperate with each other to reduce tension in the region and resolve their differences through negotiations. This is why I hope that initial indirect talks in Doha will result in direct, constructive and honest negotiations between Iran and the United States. The Middle East has suffered enough from wars and instability and a period of peace and cooperation is in everyone’s interest.

Original News : https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/474219/Doha-talks-will-provide-good-opportunity-for-Iran-and-U-S-professor

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