On the eve of a new round of multilateral nuclear talks in Geneva, France has taken the lead in expressing solidarity with Israel’s hawkish stance on Iran and, in the words of President Francois Hollande, promising to press Iran very hard at the negotiation table. US negotiator Wendy Sherman has simultaneously warned of additional US sanctions on Iran if the talks fail and both Sherman and US Secretary of State John Kerry have called on Iran to take immediate unilateral steps to “prove its intent.”
Such pre-Geneva maneuvers to jockey for position are responded by Iran’s diplomatic efforts, such as with respect to China, which has been relatively effective, in light of China’s expressed appreciation of Iran’s constructive moves on the nuclear issue, as well as defense of Iran’s NPT rights. On the other hand, Iran’s foreign minister’s call on world powers to make new offers instead of confining themselves to the past “packages of proposals” is apparently starting to make some headway in Western capitals, in light of unconfirmed reports that the “5 +1” nations are seriously pondering the idea of putting more sanctions relief on the table. If true, this is a welcome development that could, in turn, increase the new Geneva round’s chances for success.
From Iran’s point of view, a “win-win” scenario is possible, whereby Iran’s nuclear rights would be protected and the international sanctions would be removed as a result of certain ‘give and take’ that would restore outside confidence in Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. Certainly, an improvement of Iran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through a new modality, whereby the agency’s lingering questions would be put to rest, would go a long way in establishing the international confidence in Iran’s nuclear program. The mere presence of IAEA representatives in Geneva will benefit the parallel negotiation that goes to the heart of UN sanctions on Iran, which raise the issue of Iran-IAEA cooperation.