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Iranian Nuclear Nights in Vienna - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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As optimistic and eager as we are to find out what the meetings which will take place in Vienna next week will achieve with regards to the Iranian nuclear program, and whether Iran will officially agree to give up its internal uranium enrichment program, and accept this [enrichment] taking place externally, issues seem to be even more complicated [than before]. I have attempted to monitor these issues in various meetings, and they can best be summarized by the following three questions;

First: If the Iranian delegation stubbornly rejects [the cessation of internal uranium enrichment], will this result in cruel sanctions against Iran?

Secondly: If the Iranian delegation accepts to relinquish [internal uranium enrichment] with this now taking place externally, does this genuinely mean that internal uranium enrichment in Iran will stop?

Thirdly: If the good news emerges that Iran has decided to unequivocally give up uranium enrichment [and thereby give up its nuclear ambitions], will this mean a new [Iranian] cooperative strategy or will Iran continue to further aggravate the regional situation with conventional weapons and support of terrorism in order to compensate for its nuclear project?

Today we should also not forget that Iran’s Yemeni allies, the Huthi rebels, are currently knocking on the door of Saada, and this city may yet fall into their hands.

As you can see, the three issues cannot be resolved as easily as we might hope. Over the past week I spoke to a number of European officials and specialists who have ties to the Iranian negotiations in the hope of understanding the possible dimensions of the forthcoming Vienna negotiations. These negotiations are a tipping point [between the West and Iran] and the end result of years of threats and intimidation that may in the end result in a peace. However if the Iranians come to Vienna and announce an explicit “no” to the deal, this would result in an economic embargo being imposed on Iran, perhaps in just two months.

I asked a politician whether an economic embargo against Iran is actually a punishment, or whether this is favorable to Tehran for two major reasons. Firstly this protects Iran from military attack as an attack cannot take place at the same time as international sanctions. Secondly the embargo will exempt Iran from fulfilling any obligation with regards to enrichment or inspection, and while Tehran is paying the price for this economically, they will continue with uranium enrichment until they have enough to produce their first nuclear bomb, and then the equation will change entirely. Therefore an embargo would be convenient for Iran as it would grant the country time to act as it wishes. Besides this, the regime is indifferent to the suffering of its people, and would launch a propaganda campaign against the West, accusing them of being behind the tragedy of starving Iranian children, as Saddam Hussein did in Iraq.

However even if the Iranian delegation arrives and announces the acceptance of external uranium enrichment, it will most likely refuse to allow full inspections [of its nuclear facilities] and it is also likely to continue with secret internal uranium enrichment as occurred in the past. One should also note that the new agreement does not oblige Iran to hand over its uranium stockpile, and 600 tons of uranium will remain in Iran which can potentially secretly undergo the enrichment process. Therefore the agreement will be nothing more than a cover with which Iran can cover up its illegal activities without fear of military reprisal because it is protected by the new agreement,.

A third probability which the West will consider a victory worthy of celebration if achieved, is the Iranian leadership choosing to give up its nuclear program lest Tehran become subject to economic embargo or military attack or in order to focus on its domestic situation. This would prove to be a great result for Iran, as well as the world at large. However the only risk of Iran relinquishing its nuclear project is that this may result in greater [Iranian] regional intervention in Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and elsewhere, as Iran considers such intervention to be a political investment which will grant it greater influence and compensate for [the end of] its nuclear program.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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