The ongoing nuclear dialogue between Iran and the six global powers, after a promising start, has entered treacherous territory, with Tehran demanding firm reciprocation of its recent overtures from western powers to keep talks on track.
The red flag, a warning that the high-octane dialogue could stall, was raised by Javad Zarif, Iran’s urbane Foreign Minister. Mr. Zarif has become the face of Iran’s refurbished diplomacy, adopted by the administration of President Hassan Rouhani.
On Tuesday, Mr. Zarif made the blunt observation that the ball was firmly in the western court; and the global powers had to deliver something tangible to win Tehran’s trust.
In an interview with France 24 television in Paris, ahead of his travel for Thursday’s talks in Geneva, Mr. Zarif said: “We have made some progress but there is a great deal of mistrust in Iran concerning the attitude, the behaviour and the approach of some members of P5+1.”
He was referring to Iran’s interlocutors — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. Mr. Zarif pointed out that the “trust of the Iranian people must be regained”— alluding to the deeply ingrained misgivings in Iran towards the West, which inflated significantly in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Analysts point out that his carefully timed interview seemed to reflect the growing anxiety within the Rouhani administration to show concrete results to counter hawks and sceptics within the domestic establishment, who have little faith in dialogue. His inner-circle has linked progress in nuclear talks to the lifting of layered sanctions that have been imposed against Iran.
So far, Mr. Rouhani has had the backing of the Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has supported the dialogue, despite expressing serious reservations about the final outcome.
Iranians have, in recent past, held a flurry of meetings at the technical and political levels. Ahead of the second round of Geneva talks, a technical team from Iran wrapped up detailed negotiations on October 29 with officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The momentum will be maintained by the scheduled talks in Tehran on November 11.