Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Iran must reach out to its Arab neighbors - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

The 10-day pause between rounds of talks with Iran has increased the danger that a deal could not be reached in Geneva, because it gave opponents on all sides time to regroup and cast more doubts on the negotiations.

The US Congress is one of the opponents, fueled by Israeli lobbyists and conservative Republicans. But there are also opponents from the Iranian side, namely the hardline conservatives. Those hardliners are against basically any negotiations, and they also refuse to give credit to the West—particularly the United Sates.

In this atmosphere, both sides’ patience will almost certainly have run out after having failed to reach a nuclear deal in Geneva last week.

In the US, Congress is threatening to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran while the Obama administration’s representative, Secretary of State John Kerry, fights to prevent anything scuppering the negotiations.

Reaching a deal would mean taking options off the table—and we’ve all heard US officials irritate Iranian politicians with their “all options are on the table” motto.

But the option both the US and Iran are trying to avoid, no matter how seriously Israel lobbies for it, is obvious: bombing Iran.

Unfortunately, the only outcome that could appease the Israeli administration is nothing less than war with Iran. What Israel is asking for—no uranium enrichment whatsoever—is simply never going to happen.

Basically, if Iran proves that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, then it has the right to enrich uranium on its soil for use in its nuclear reactors, just like any other country that adheres to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s standards.

Last Monday, the IAEA announced that Iran had agreed to work to resolve all its outstanding issues with the agency, and that it would allow international inspectors “managed access” to two important nuclear facilities.

That agreement with the IAEA has probably thrown a lot of its opponents off their guard. They had been ready to implement a new round of sanctions, after all!

So after the statement from the IAEA last Monday, and after the last round of talks between Iran and the West, we’ve seen a lot of action from Secretary of State John Kerry to shore up support for the talks. Most notably, he made intensive trips to the Middle East to brief US allies about the negotiations with Iran.

At a press conference in the United Arab Emirates, Secretary Kerry said that the Obama administration is not in a “race” to strike a deal. But, clearly, Israel can’t get what it wants in this circumstance. As President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech to parliament last Sunday, “enriching uranium is our red line and is not negotiable.”

What Mr. Kerry’s remarks clearly aimed to do was reassure the US’s allies that if a deal is reached, it would be a good deal for everybody—not only for Iran.

It has been interesting to watch the US administration’s efforts to promote the deal and convince Israel and their Arab allies to trust the talks with Iran, especially since Iran has been so passive about reaching out to other countries for support.

The US administration has been travelling around the world to negotiate with their opponents, both internal and external. Why hasn’t the Iranian side had the courage to do this, and especially to try to improve their relations with their Arab neighbors?

True, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled all over the West to negotiate with governments about the sanctions, and also to talk about Iran’s nuclear program in general. He appeared on several foreign media outlets, but so far he hasn’t traveled to any Arab countries or spoken to any of their media outlets.

Internal opponents and Western negotiators are obviously of great concern to Iran, but Iran also has to have an eye on their Arab neighbors, who also have their own voice and the power to make a difference.

If Rouhani and Zarif can warm up to the US, why can’t they work things out with their own neighbors? Arab voices and support are no less important than those of Western countries.

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

More Posts