The progress made in Geneva last week between Iran and major world powers is making the naysayers of a possible nuclear deal extremely frustrated. Although no deal was struck, an interim agreement seems inevitable, if not when Iran meets the P5+1 again on Nov. 20, then shortly thereafter. In addition, the United States and Iran are now engaging in unprecedented bilateral talks. There are several reasons this time is different:
First, both the United States and Iran are eager for a deal immediately, even if it is an interim arrangement for six months and will require more difficult and detailed negotiations at a later time. Hard-liners in both countries are waiting at the gates to sabotage the process. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is profiting from international sanctions, and it is not in its interest if sanctions are lifted – which is the ultimate goal of the Iranian negotiators, supported by President Hassan Rouhani. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also supports the process, with some reservations. Principal Friday prayer leaders in Iran are also endorsing the talks.
Iran is running out of foreign currency reserves as a result of sanctions. Tehran must once again be able to sell its oil on the vast world market (not just to a few governments unfazed by sanctions) and thus needs a lifting of the oil embargo imposed on it. Also, due to international banking sanctions, Iran cannot do business in the international sphere. Although these sanctions would not be lifted immediately if a deal is struck, this is Iran’s ultimate goal.
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This op-ed was first published in Al Jazeera America on Nov. 13, 2013
Photo courtesy of Violaine Martin via UN