Iran-West nuke talks are 'dialogue of the deaf': Expert

Yasser Seddiq, Monday 8 Apr 2013

The nuclear negotiations between Iran and western powers are not likely to be successful, an Egyptian expert tells Ahram Online

Participants from the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany prepare to start talks with Iranian negotiators in Almaty April 5, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Talks between the world powers and Iran on Tehran's nuclear programme are sure to be unproductive, as the two sides are at odds, a political expert at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies told Ahram Online.

The second round of Tehran's nuclear negotiations between leading global powers and Iran in Kazakhstan has reached a deadlock, and the long discussions have not bridged the differences between the two sides.

Mohamed Abbas Nagi told Ahram Online that the second round of negotiations between the two sides, which was held in the Kazakhstani city of Almaty, failed again to end the deadlock in a decade-old dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme.

Nagi put the failure down to three factors.

Firstly, he argued that "the talks between the Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) and representatives of Iran are a "dialogue of deaf." 

He explained: "The crisis of confidence between the two sides is deepening. The gap is widening as big power negotiators are asking Iran to suspend its most sensitive uranium-enrichment work in return for modest relief from the stifling economic sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union over Tehran's nuclear efforts since 2006. Iran did not accept the offer though."

"Sanctions on Iran's oil sector, for example, have cut revenues in half over the past year and propelled the fall of its currency. The latest round of sanctions is making it even more difficult for Iran to access international oil revenue," Nagi added.

The second factor is that Iran is preparing for presidential elections due in June in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must step down after the maximum two terms.

Any nuclear deal between the western negotiators and the Iranians would be unlikely until after Iran has elected its next president.

The Islamic Republic’s eleventh presidential election will be held in June and presidential hopefuls will register from 7 May to 11 May.

Nagi believes that the talks were expected to bring nothing new, as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all major decisions in Iran, had said the nuclear talks with Iran are pointless while Washington is "holding a gun" to the country through economic sanctions.

The weakening regional position of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the third reason. Tehran is under mounting regional pressure due to the dramatic change taking place in the Middle East.

"Syria is Iran's main Arab political ally and physical gateway to the Arab world, as well as being their only real window on the Mediterranean Sea," Nagi said.

"The Al-Assad regime is shrinking and segregating inside Damascus while the Syrian rebels are gaining more grounds and seizing larger parts of the war-torn country."

The Hezbollah-backed government in Lebanon has also recently resigned, a move that distanced Iran, a Shiite ally, and increased the regional weakness of Tehran.

In addition, full diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel are expected to be restored, two US allies Washington sees as anchors of stability in a Middle East wracked by Syria's civil war, the Arab Spring political uprisings and the potential threat posed by Tehran's nuclear programme.

Nagi says that Iran is in a difficult situation, and a nuclear deal with the West is unlikely to be struck in the near future as long as the crisis of confidence is unsolved. He also expects that the Almaty talks will not be conclusive, and a fresh round of negotiations are expected to be held after the Iranian presidential elections.

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