The P5+1-Iran nuclear negotiations are complex and have many moving parts, from the negotiations themselves, to the interests, positions, and actions of states with a big stake but no direct role such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, to the domestic politics of all of actors involved. IranPolitik’s day by day analysis of the Third Geneva Talks gives a dynamic and multi-faceted picture of the negotiations on these crucial days. we summarize the day’s events, look at what some of the main actors who were not present at the talks had to say, and skim through nteresting commentary by experts and journalists.
While the first day of the talks appears to have been spent rebuilding rapport and trust between the two sides, discussions of the main issues seems to have begun on the morning of 21 November during a bilateral meeting between European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif which began at 09h00 Geneva time. Ashton’s spokesperson Michael Mann described the bilateral meeting, which broke for lunch before resuming at 14h00, as a “very substantial and detailed start to negotiations…” This was followed by Ashton’s debrief of the P5+1 political directors. At the end of the day’s talks, Mann tweeted: “Day of intense, substantial and detailed negotiations on #Iran #nuclear programme, conducted in good atmosphere; talks to continue tomorrow.”
Israeli Economy Minister Bennett says “bad deal” in Geneva will increase chance for war
In an interview with Charlie Rose on Thursday, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett declared that “If a bad deal is signed, it will ultimately increase chances for, you know, an action and a war.” Rose, a veteran television host, appeared surprised: “You’re saying that the deal that you think is on the table is a bad deal and is more likely that Israel will be forced to strike if that deal is signed and becomes a fait accompli?”
Although a bad deal did not guarantee that Israel would carry out military action against Iran, Bennett insisted that it would “…increase chances for the need of a military option…Our assumption as an independent state is that we will never outsource our security and our existence to anyone, including America.”
For the current Likud-led coalition in power in Israel, a bad deal amounts to one in which Iran is allowed to retain any of its uranium enrichment capacity and its unfinished its IR-40 (Arak) Heavy Water Reactor, among other things. This ‘maximalist’ position is not shared by the P5+1, which is contemplating allowing Iran to retain some of its uranium enrichment capacity, although the fate of the Arak facility remains uncertain.
Samuel Cutler: “The Iran Sanctions Collapse Myth”
Samuel Cutler, Policy Adviser at Ferrari & Associates P.C., a Washington D.C. law-firm specializing in U.S. economic sanctions matters, has called the idea that if the P5+1 concedes any sanctions relief at this point it could lead to the collapse of the Iran sanctions, a “myth”. He specifically addressed the concern that in the wake of an interim deal “…companies will attempt to secure privileged positions by re-entering [the Iranian market] at the first sign that the U.S. Treasury Department is tapping the brakes, leading to the dissolution of the current sanctions regime.”
He said that the concern that “…firms would deliberately violate existing U.S. and EU sanctions, under the assumption that enforcement actions would not be forthcoming, stretches the bounds of credulity.” Cutler insisted that this would mean that “Companies would need to unlearn the recent and painful lessons taught to them by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and state regulators such as the New York Department of Financial Services.”
This was because “…executives and the compliance staff of any company considering a re-entry into the Iranian …will be forced to consider the possibility that even following an interim deal, talks may break down, Iran may renege on its commitments, and sanctions may be re-imposed.”
Of course, this view is far from universal. As a recent New York Times article pointed out: “Much of this argument is based on psychology as much as economics. The fear heard in Congress — echoed in arguments the Israelis have made in an intense lobbying campaign — is that any easing of the business climate around Iran from toxic to tolerable will erode the fear businesses now have of dealing with the country. Once Iran’s economy improves even slightly, its incentive to negotiate will disappear, they argue.”
The NYT report cited Sima Shine, an Iran expert at Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, echoing this sentiment: “There is one very important element that you cannot measure, which is the one of the psychological atmosphere…It will open an opportunity, and the business community is eager, eager to jump into Iran. It will be kind of an understanding that we are in the direction of relieving sanctions. Everybody will be looking to both sides to see that the others are not jumping before them.”