An indispensable deal

The diplomatic hype in Vienna is self-explanatory.

Talks between Iran and the six world powers to clinch a nuclear deal have kept all parties concerned on their toes. Though nothing concrete has emerged from the parleys during the last few months of staggered talks, since a six-month long interim accord was signed in November, the body language and enthusiasm suggest that a permanent deal is round the corner. The Islamic republic has all along followed the strategy of two steps ahead and one step back, reiterating that it will never abandon its right to a nuclear programme but at the same time try to assure the international community that it is peaceful and non-military in essence.

The hardliners in Tehran, however, have a different tale to tell as they try to appease the radicals among them. They say a compromise with the West over its national security and nuclear programme is impossible. But as far as the government of President Hassan Rohani is concerned, its survival lies in making inroads into the West, and he luckily enjoys the support of a silent majority at home who want the revolutionary state to open up and do business with the outside world. And for the West, it is a rare opportunity to seek rapprochement after decades of isolation. The nuclear talks thus come as a silver lining for Iran — getting its due in international affairs. That is why Foreign Minister Javed Zarif tries to keep his hopes high as he struggles to find a way forward in his complex negotiations with his European counterparts.

At this point of time foreign ministers from Iran and the P5+1 group comprising the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia plus Germany are busy drafting a permanent accord, which could officially bring Tehran on board with the world at large by eliminating the threat perspective associated with its ambitious enrichment programme. This is easier said than done. There are limitations for each party and the mandate that the Iranian delegation enjoys is too complicated. The Iranian team has to be seen in a win-win perspective at home by bringing back the news of lifting of economic sanctions, and at the same time securing its right to a peaceful nuclear programme.

The tricky points on the table are: the level of uranium enrichment capacity, the future of heavy-water reactor at Arak and the military muscles of Iran. Tehran will have to not only closely read the fine print of the permanent deal but also cater to the hopes and aspirations at home and abroad. It’s no less than a catch-22 situation for minister Zarif.

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