News / Middle East

Top Diplomats to Meet on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Top Diplomats to Meet on Iran’s Nuclear Programi
September 25, 2013 11:34 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are scheduled to meet Thursday to start high-level negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The talks at the United Nations are fueling cautious hope for progress after a decade of failed diplomacy. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington.
Meredith Buel
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are scheduled to meet Thursday to start high-level negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The talks at the United Nations are fueling cautious hope for progress after a decade of failed diplomacy.

On Twitter this week, Iran’s new foreign minister, Zarif, said the opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue is historic. Zarif received his higher education in America and speaks fluent English. He will lead Iran’s nuclear talks with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany.

He's been continuing the charm offensive launched by Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani. “Iran seeks constructive engagement with other countries based on mutual respect and common interest and within the same framework does not seek to increase tensions with the United States,” said Rouhani.

U.S. President Barack Obama says the diplomatic path must be tested. “Given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government.”

Iran's economy, after multiple rounds of sanctions, is in serious trouble.

And that, said analyst Alex Vatanka, is spurring Iranian efforts to improve relations. “What I heard from President Obama, we have been hearing from President Rouhani and the Iranian supreme leader is that 'look, we are bleeding and you are tired of all the conflicts in the Middle East, we both have a reason, with whatever incentives we come to the table, we want a solution, let’s see if we can talk.'”  

Although hopes for a handshake between the top leaders did not materialize, American and Iranian diplomacy appears to have reached a new level, at least for now.

Mark Fitzpatrick is a top Iran watcher in London. “For the time being, the talk of war is off the table. I mean, it’s in the background. And, if diplomacy is not able to settle this problem by next summer, I think, unfortunately, the prospects for war will be back on the table.”

Despite the diplomacy, skeptics say actions will speak louder than words.

Analyst Matthew Levitt at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said, “Iran is reportedly increasing its support for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. It is doubling down in support of the Assad regime in Syria. And its proxy Hezbollah continues to try and carry out attacks on Israeli tourists around the world. So there is a disconnect between the words and the actions right now and we need to see them merge.”

Iran says it will never develop nuclear weapons - a pledge Western nations do not trust.

The stakes are high according to Iran analyst Patrick Clawson. “This is a moment of great hope, but also, frankly, a moment of considerable danger because if we don’t reach an agreement with Rouhani we will never reach an agreement with Iran. And it is still unclear if the terms that he will accept overlap with the terms that we will insist upon.”

A senior U.S. official says the steps taken by Iran in the weeks ahead will determine how successful diplomacy will be.

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Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 26, 2013 8:09 AM
The issue here is not about coated speeches and meaningless innuendos, the real thing is what is coming out from the people seemingly in search of peace with neighbors. If Iran has increased its nefarious activities with Hamas and Hezbollah which the world knows as terrorists, then it's back to square 1. Beyond the smiling face of Rouhani at the world conference at the UN, other actions surrounding his visit leave much to be desired - he evaded a meeting with Obama citing flimsy excuses of food and drinks that Iranians don't take; and when Amanpour asked him to speak to Americans in English, he betrayed a foolhardy that shows that his touted western education avails nothing, he said he has not spoken an English word in 25 years - a sign that he is completely disconnected with the West and may not have a friend out there again. A good sign? So what's the sign that he will ever mean good?

But the sure thing to come out of these negotiations: the US has already betrayed a position of weakness that may make Iran negotiate from a stronger position. Since Obama seems to make it look like the US wants Iran more than Iran wants the US, and with the help of Russia reading and interpreting all actions to it, Iran may disappoint everyone at the end, for it has all the aces as it is. And when that happens, Obama will receive the kudos for betraying a feeling of American war-weariness that cheapens USA to the outside world. America may be war weary, but betraying it to the world detracts from a superpower status. Shows the difference between someone who thinks to himself to have what it takes to be an American president and someone who is goaded into it by his friends because he can make speeches. A lot more things will still go wrong while this regime persists until Americans learn to present candidates who have the political clout, not intellectual audacity of hope, as presidents and/or presidential materials.

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