December 24, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 5105

Iranian Daily Calls On Regime To Compromise In Nuclear Talks

December 24, 2012
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 5105

In its December 18, 2012 editorial, the moderate-conservative daily Ebtekar criticized the all-or-nothing attitude of the Iranian regime, under Khamenei's leadership, to the nuclear negotiations with the 5+1 and the IAEA. The editorial claimed that this approach, which views the talks as a battle, leads to impasse or defeat, and urged the regime, in advance of the new round of talks planned for mid-January 2013, to adopt a new attitude of willingness to compromise and to make concessions.

It should be noted that such criticism is rarely voiced in the Iranian media, and even though the editorial was quoted on several websites, it has so far sparked no debate in the country.

The following are excerpts from the editorial:[1]

"Experience... Indicates That The Start Of The Christian Year And The Start Of The Persian Year [In March] Are Always A Good Time For Dialogue And For Attempts At Compromise"

"The experience accumulated over the years since the beginning of the nuclear crisis between Tehran and the West, with all its ups and downs, indicates that the start of the Christian year and the start of the Persian year [in March] are always a good time for dialogue and for attempts at compromise. The colder and shorter [the days of] January and the other winter months, the warmer the hope for [successful] negotiation.

"This has been true this year as well. Just as the technical talks with the IAEA and the political talks with the 5+1 reached an impasse, and as rumors [began to circulate] about an [imminent] war and an Israeli military attack [on Iran], Christmas appeared on the horizon, and suddenly diplomats in the West, both known and obscure, reported that an agreement had been reached on both fronts [i.e. with both the IAEA and with the 5+1] about the continuation of the nuclear talks.

"The IAEA representatives who arrived in Tehran a few days ago smiled with satisfaction [as they promised to] resume the dialogue with Iran in late January, and expressed hope to reach a modalities agreement that would resolve the differences [between the two sides], after they bargained [with the Iranians] on every detail behind closed doors.

"As for the 5+1, it has been reported that their representatives have agreed on a new proposal package for Iran. It was also reported that Helga Schmidt, the deputy of [E.U. Foreign Minister] Catherine Ashton, conveyed some of the details of this package in a phone conversation with [Ali] Baqeri, deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, on behalf of the 5+1, and that the two sides even set a date for resuming the negotiations in the coming weeks, namely in mid-January.

"Upon returning to Vienna [from Iran], IAEA deputy director-general Herman Nackaerts told reporters: 'We have agreed hold another meeting with the Iranian representatives on January 16, 2013, and we hope to complete the modalities agreement and begin implementing it soon after that.' The Iranian representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, also described the talks [with the IAEA] as positive and constructive, providing no further explanation."

"However, Experience [Also] Teaches Us That The Nuclear Bargaining Will [Probably] Continue For Many Years To Come"

"As in the past, the Christian new year brings with it a renewed hope that the ice might break in the diplomatic relations between Iran and the West, and that [Iran's] nuclear dossier might be closed once and for all. However, experience teaches us that the nuclear bargaining will [probably] continue for many years to come... [In fact,] both sides already have some obstacles and reservations, each of which [is sufficient] to stifle any optimism about [the possibility of] understanding and dialogue – especially since, just as negotiations are about to resume, anti[-dialogue] diplomats on both sides have not been idle.

"Let us list some of the reservations regarding the success of the dialogue. [It will succeed only] if the Western side is not stingy in its incentives package, and does not enter [the negotiations] with a tight fist; if the American side refrains from tightening the economic sanctions on the Iranian people day by day, while announcing its willingness to hold direct bilateral talks with Tehran... and if, as a trust-building measure, it quickly removes these limitations, which are meant to [undermine] the Iranians' daily lives...; if the modalities agreement that will be accepted after hours, days, and months of technical and nuclear negotiations is not torpedoed by an under-the-table veto or by opposition and obstacles on both sides of the table; and if the two sides do not negotiate just for the sake of negotiating, but rather agree that mutual concessions are a basic principle of effective negotiation leading to a solution...

"These are only some of the potential [pitfalls] that already lie in wait for the technical and political talks, and which may affect the course [of these talks] at any moment. [Moreover,] in the recent days, as the meetings [with the IAEA representatives] in Tehran commenced, some political activists and journalists in the country voiced criticism and implicit warnings regarding the dialogue, using expressions like '[drinking] the cup of poison.'[2] They said that certain politicians were trying to make [Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei] drink the cup of poison as part of the nuclear dialogue. This critical stance can be seen as another reservation and obstacle [that may hinder the negotiations, like those listed above]."

"We Must Agree That Expressions Like 'All Or Nothing' Belong To The Rhetoric Of The Battlefield – And That The Negotiating Table Is Nothing Like A Battlefield"

"The truth is that, if one of the sides in the diplomatic arena comes to the negotiating table with an 'all-or-nothing' attitude, and does not accept that making concessions in order to gain concessions is a basic principle of bargaining towards an agreement, and uses expressions like 'surrender' or 'cup of poison' – [then that side] might as well stay away from the table and not voice any willingness to enter the talks, because such an attitude will ultimately lead to defeat or to an deadlock. If one chooses [to sit at] the negotiating table, one must accept the rules of play and take a realistic view of what one stands to gain and what one is willing to give in this process.

"Diplomatic struggle is [waged through] dialogue over issues that are relative, so there is no room for absolutist [positions]. We must agree that expressions like 'all or nothing' belong to the rhetoric of the battlefield – and that the negotiating table is nothing like a battlefield."


[1] Ebtekar (Iran), December 18, 2012.

[2] This phrase was used by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1988 to express how difficult it was for him to accept the UN-brokered truce with Iraq that ended the Iran-Iraq war.

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