Keep talking peace

The four-month extension of talks to >halt Tehran’s bid to make an atomic bomb is an indication of the positive if limited fallout from the historic late-2013 interim agreement. Beneath that was well-founded and deep scepticism — in the United States, Europe and even among the Israeli intelligence — of any resort to brute force as a means to restrain Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. The five permanent members on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and Germany accordingly decided to ease sanctions worth $7 billion for six months. The readiness of the latter to relent on Iran’s continuation of uranium enrichment up to the level necessary for power generation was in sharp contrast to past UNSC resolutions requiring Tehran to freeze all enrichment. In return, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear programme and permit vigorous multilateral inspections of its facilities. Whereas U.S. President Barack Obama insisted that such relief was conditional and reversible, the Republican hard-liners and Israel decried the November agreement as a huge mistake. It is significant that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should have acknowledged in June that Iran was cooperating with investigations into the so-called Possible Military Dimensions to its nuclear programme. The IAEA had also observed that such inspections could necessarily proceed in a step-by-step manner — a possible case to extend the deadline for negotiations.

There is evidently no guarantee that the November deadline would yield the outcome that all parties envisage. Tehran has offered to freeze the country’s operations at current levels over the next three to seven years and thereafter resume uranium production as per its own requirements. Conversely, Washington and its partners insist that Iran dismantle major aspects of its uranium enrichment facilities and that current restrictions should continue for well over a decade. The real force behind these stated positions may also be influenced considerably by geopolitics in the Middle East. A foremost factor is the election last year of Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani, which almost coincided with the interim nuclear agreement. A thaw in Britain’s relations with Tehran could prove to be a vital channel for the European powers and the U.S. to exert pressure on the radical Sunni Islamic groups in Iraq and Syria. These are factors with a strong potential to influence the course of nuclear talks. The road to long-term peace lies in eschewing hard positions; one that goes to the root of the global Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Nuclear weapon-states championing disarmament ought to tread a delicate line vis-à-vis potential aspirants in order to strengthen world peace.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 5:14:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/keep-talking-peace/article6258683.ece

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