Nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West were an achievement in themselves. A deal will take longer

Just as those predicting immediate success were hasty, so are those calling defeat

Share

Hopes of an agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme were high, but it is little surprise that they have not been met. The immense difficulties facing the negotiations in Geneva faded into the background amid talk of a “historic deal” and an imminent end to decades of mutual suspicion and misunderstanding. Yet when discussions concluded at the weekend without a deal, the attempt was swiftly branded a failure.

There was, and remains, some cause for optimism. Since Hassan Rouhani took over the Iranian presidency from the bellicose Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June, the rhetoric from Tehran has markedly softened. And with international sanctions biting hard on ordinary Iranians – inflation is running at 40 per cent, the economy has shrunk by more than 5 per cent, and the number of families below the poverty line has doubled to four in 10 – domestic pressure for a deal cannot be ignored. Meanwhile, for the international community, Israel’s threats of air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, not to mention the Islamic Republic’s pivotal position in an ever more unstable region, have also been focusing minds.

But both sides wanting to talk was never going to make reaching a mutually satisfactory conclusion any easier. Sure enough, even the personal participation of the US Secretary of State, who arrived in Switzerland on Friday, was not enough to reach a deal. What were always the two primary sticking points remain so. One is the question about the future of the heavy-water reactor being built at Arak. The other is what to do with Iran’s existing stockpile of highly enriched uranium. Tehran is determined to retain “rights to enrichment”; the international community, not unreasonably, remains sceptical.

Stalemate? Not quite. Just as those predicting immediate success were unduly hasty, so are those now calling defeat. John Kerry’s eight hours at the negotiating table are the longest high-level talks between the US and Iran since 1979 – no small achievement in itself. Equally, the Secretary of State’s assertion that “we are closer now than when we came” cannot simply be dismissed. With negotiations to restart in 10 days’ time – albeit between diplomats rather than foreign ministers – the process is far from over.

Now is a dangerous time. Barack Obama’s critics in Congress – fuelled by Israel’s inflammatory opposition to a deal – are already pushing for more sanctions. In Iran, the frustration of public demands for relief may undermine support for discussions that many feel infringe on national sovereignty. Apparent divisions in the international community, exemplified by France’s outspoken warnings about a “fool’s game” before the talks were concluded, will not help either.

Yet there is no constructive alternative to perseverance. Neither will a deal be struck without concessions from both sides. The notion of the Islamic Republic continuing with some degree of uranium enrichment may not be palatable; but it is allowed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and – in return for close controls and even closer oversight – it is a better option than either accepting an Iran with nuclear weapons or trying to bomb them out of existence.

The price is high; but so is the value of the prize. A deal is not only the only way to patch up one of the world’s most dangerous and intractable disputes. An accord between Iran and the West could also be key to any number of the issues bedevilling the Middle East, not least the conflict in Syria. It was never going to be easy. But it has not failed yet.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Karl Lagerfeld's latest Chanel show might have dressed itself up in feminism, but it was more embarrassing than empowering

Mark Izatt
 

Theresa May doesn’t get it - banning ideas we don’t like is to suggest that we are frightened of them

Mike Harris
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?