It seems like Iran and the United Nations Security Council have been jostling about Tehran’s nuclear program forever. It’s the same old equation: the UN try to adopt a deal that Iran would accept, but then the deal falls apart after a few days of consideration. Such was the case last year when Iran and the Security Council both accepted an agreement whereby 2,600 pounds of low enriched uranium would be sent to France and Russia for further processing. Originally, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreed on the contours of the deal. But when the Iranian president came back home, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the conservative clerics forced him to renege on the proposal.
The nuclear talks between the United States and Iran have been stalled ever since, with both sides refusing to budge on their positions. For the United States, it’s Iran’s refusal to uphold international demands that have been the sour point. For the Iranians, it’s the perception that the West is simply trying to deprive their right to produce nuclear energy under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And for Turkey, Brazil and everyone else in between, it’s a combination of the two.
So when news breaks that Iranian and European negotiators have finally agreed on resuming the broken down talks later in December, questions automatically surface as to whether this round will be any different from the last.
The Washington Post reported a few weeks ago that both sides have in fact settled on December 5 for talks to begin. But so far, the topics of the discussions, let alone where the talks will be held, are still up for debate. Tehran wants to negotiate in Turkey, the same country that brokered a fuel swap deal earlier this year. The Security Council, on the other hand, is fearful that talking in Turkey will only bring a powerful pro-Iranian voice into the process; something that the United States surely want to avoid.
From this early date, it’s difficult to believe how the December 5 negotiations can work. While economic sanctions from the EU, United Nations and United States have inflicted harm on the Iranians for the past few months, it appears that these punishments have only hardened Teheran’s position on their nuclear enrichment rights. And in Washington DC, patience with diplomacy is running thin. With Republicans set to assume dominance in the lower chamber of Congress, the Obama Administration will be pressured to act tougher — and for most Republican legislators, tougher means using or threatening to use force.
Diplomacy is complicated and at times infuriating, especially when the country you are trying to negotiate with carries a bulk of Western distrust on their shoulders. But without diplomacy, there are only three options available for resolving the Iranian nuclear issue: more sanctions, military force, or Cold War style nuclear containment. All three are controversial, and all three may only exacerbate the situation. Compromising face to face is something that every reasonable person can support.