The six powers’ negotiating teams sat down in Geneva for resumed nuclear talks with Iran Wednesday, Nov. 20 in a haze of cautious optimism radiating from from Washington, Moscow and London about the prospects of the first accord to be signed with Tehran on a path toward resolving the controversy over its nuclear program.
Still, no one was laying bets on the deal, a preliminary accord providing six months for a comprehensive agreement to be discussed>
They know that Tehran is always unpredictable. Negotiators with the Islamic Republic have been bitten more than once. And so they can’t rule out the possibility of the Iranian negotiator at the last minute, as all pens are poised to sign, holding up the process by saying he is not authorized to agree on one point or another and must return home for further consultations.
This is a familiar Iranian ploy for extracting more concessions from the opposite side.
Looking on the bright side, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted a message on YouTube ahead of the meeting saying that there was "every possibility for success" and he looked forward to quick results in Geneva.
Vladimir Putin, too, after he talked by phone to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Kremlin announced Tuesday, “There is a real chance for a nuclear deal.”
President Barack Obama was also upbeat about an accord, although he said he didn’t know if it would come this week or next. He assured The Wall Street Journal that the bulk of the sanctions regime would meanwhile remain.
Although the US President has promised that no more than “modest” sanctions relaxations would be granted in the framework of the preliminary accord, allied Western governments, especially in West Europe, are so certain that Obama is set on a historic accord between the US and Iran, that they can see his foot lifting off the sanctions brakes. They are therefore already engaged in direct talks with Tehran about resumed business after the accord is in the bag, on a scale that would dwarf the volume of sanctions relief.
France is the exception because its main trading partners in the region are in the Arab Gulf rather than Iran.
The sanctions architecture which took years to put in place is therefore likely to crumble fast, even if Tehran holds back from finalizing the preliminary agreement in Geneva.
So what motive does Iran have for a quick deal when a drawn-out delay promises such benefits as melting sanctions and a chance to squeeze the West for further concessions that leave its nuclear program in place and viable?