By Claude Salhani - Trend:
Iranian leaders are drawing red lines in the sand, states reports from informed sources in Washington, D.C., claiming that while the ayatollahs want to renew relations with the West, but are willing to go only so far, regardless of the consequences.
The leadership of the Islamic Republic, sources say, will stop short of agreeing to concessions on plutonium production reactors, uranium enrichment and ballistic missile development.
In fact just last week Iran tested two missiles just a day before resuming talks with the Western powers. The timing was not coincidental. This is Iran's way of saying we are willing to discuss issues with you, although, it will have to be on our terms. More on that in a moment.
What is interesting is the consistency Iran is showing when it comes to the nuclear issue. In other words, Iran, under the new leadership of President Hassan Rouhani, differs little, if any, from that of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when it comes to the questions of nuclear issues. Basically the message remains the same. Perhaps the difference lies only in the delivery.
Remove the above mentioned points from any future negotiations and the only thing left on the agenda to discuss will be how the West will lift economic sanctions that were imposed on Iran. Not really an ideal negotiating platform to set out from, now is it?
The sanctions have hurt Iran but it seems that some crafty negotiations by President Rouhani and his team has managed to wedge enough of a gap in the sanctions allowing Iran some leeway and to export enough oil to start refilling the empty state coffers.
Iran's United Nations spokesperson Hamid Babaei, speaking on behalf of his government, re-emphasized that Iran would not be downgrading its heavy water reactor at Arak. Nor would it reduce its centrifuges. The rejections by the Iranians had also been earlier confirmed by the Islamic Republic's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqch, who also serves as a key Iranian nuclear negotiator.
A number of observers believe that Iran is highly unlikely to give into pressure from the West and dismantle its nuclear program, or its ballistic missile program.
A recent report from the Institute for Science and International Security states that any worthwhile deal would require that Iran dismantle about 15,000 centrifuges
A spike in Iranian oil exports was "raising concerns" that the sanctions relief provided to Iran under the interim Joint Plan of Action - which the Obama administration declared would not rise much above $7 billion, is the equivalent of an adrenalin shot, boosting the country's struggling economy. The end result will be putting Iran in a stronger negotiation position.
Now back to the question of Iran's "attitude" problem, such as firing missiles a day prior to negotiating on their sanctions. This is the equivalent of a person getting into a bar brawl on the eve of his parole review, though in Iran's case it tends to be slightly more complex.
Why did Iran fire those missiles? Basically it was to assert itself, and refuse to bow down before U.S. hegemony in the region. What the West in general and the U.S. in particular seem to consistently forget is the mentality of the region. You cannot deal with Iran as you would with Canada or Croatia. There are very different ideas, and different sensitivities and cultures that must be taken into consideration.
Iran, a very proud nation resents not being treated on a par with other powers and with greater respect. As one diplomat in Baku explained the diplomatic importance of respect, "We have excellent relations with Azerbaijan because we treat them with respect," said the ambassador. An example that can be applied to other countries in the region.
Claude Salhani is a journalist and political analyst specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and terrorism. He is senior editor of the English service of the Trend Agency in Baku, Azerbaijan.