As the time is coming closer to wrap up the Iranian Nuclear Deal, both the parties (Iran and US) are developing cold feet. The bargaining power of both nations is being tested. It needs to be seen whether the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program can be suitably resolved or Iran would be forced to take the nuclear route. The beginning of the last round of negotiations has not been very encouraging. Significant differences and hardening of postures have dampened the prospects of success. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov left the negotiations midway stating that he would rejoin if the group was able to come to a realistic agreement.
There are three main issues of contention. First, Iran wants sanctions to be lifted immediately once a deal is formalised because it has often stated that sanctions have had a crippling effect on its economy, even as the US still insists on the gradual easing of sanctions. Secondly, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment programme for a period of ten years but the US and its allies want this “break out time” (where by the time taken by the Tehran to assemble enough fissile material for a bomb) to be increased. Finally, the US wantssanctions to be re-imposed automatically if Iran reverts to violating the agreement, whereas Russia and China want the decision to go to the Security Council first. Again, Iran has ruled out sending the country’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium to the interlocutors. Tehran’s deputy foreign minister as Abbas Araqchi clearly stated that “The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our programme and we do not intend sending them abroad.” In fact, he strongly opposes the measure, “There is no question of sending the stocks abroad.”
All these issues could be negotiated, if intentions are honest. The interlocutors need to weigh the pros and cons. Will the deal with sufficient checks and balances prevent the nuclearisation of the Middle East or do the interlocutors believe that the global community can prevent the possibility of Iran becoming a nuclear threat through sanctions. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has rightly stated that “a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran is in all our interests.” He added that “both sides now need to work intensively to bridge remaining differences. That will mean some tough choices if we are to reach what would be a historic deal.”