Iran wants progress in nuclear discussions with the West, although they are not necessarily relying on any major breakthroughs. The nation has been meeting with representatives from the United States and the European Union. Shortly after arriving in Vienna on Tuesday for further negotiations, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that he is not expecting a final deal to be arrived at this week, although he does believe that these talks will be valuable in providing a strong foundation for a final deal to be agreed upon in the future. Zarif met with Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Vienna on Wednesday to join the talks.
These discussions with Iranian officials have been taking place with six major world powers: Germany, France, Great Britain, China, Russia, and the U.S. There is a Nov. 24 deadline for the discussions. Zarif was cautiously optimistic as he arrived in Vienna, although Iranian president Hassan Rouhani had confidently stated to an Iranian television audience just before the talks got underway that a deal was a certainty, and that only a few minor details still needed to be ironed out.
Iran does want progress in the nuclear discussion with the West, but there are two possible factors that could potentially significantly impact these negotiations. The first is the fast rise of ISIL, or the Islamic State, as it has taken over much of Syria and northern Iraq. The other factor is the falling price of oil. Both issues could be major factors in negotiations, but with the Islamic State continually taking over more territory as it nears Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, the U.S. and Iran might find themselves on the same side of a major issue in the region, possibly putting them in the awkward position of strange bedfellows. Iran borders Iraq, and it has been strongly opposed to the Islamic State.
As for the declining prices of oil, this has a significant impact on the Iranian economy. The price for a barrel of oil fell to under $90 this week, and has been on a steady and significant decline now for the last six months. While Iran is a major producer of oil, it has been struggling through the economic sanctions that have been imposed on it. Simply put, it cannot afford further economic measures against it if talks break down, which might make it more willing to work out a deal with the West. President Hassan Rouhani not only sounded very confident that a deal with the West would be reached, but he also promised his people who economic conditions in the country would improve. The success of these talks are obviously very important to him and his government.
While Iran wants progress with the nuclear discussions with the West, diplomats from the other countries are considerably less optimistic about whether such progress is realistic, especially as the deadline set for late next month approaches. They suggested that there were still very significant issues that needed to be worked out. None of these differences were bigger than the issue of uranium enrichment. Iran claims that it is engaging in this process for peaceful purposes in order to provide nuclear energy for its citizens. Western officials, however, have suspected that the nation’s program for enrichment of uranium is to develop nuclear weapons. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did state that a deal could still be reached, but there were many issues that the two sides needed to work out first. He did not answer questions about whether a possible extension to the deadline would be needed, preferring instead to focus on the existing discussions currently underway.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by [ John ] – Flickr