Tehran’s message for PyongyangA decade-old diplomatic bottleneck finally received a breakthrough. Five United Nations Security Council members - the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China - and Germany struck a preliminary deal with the new leadership in Iran after four days of marathon talks in Geneva to put a stop to Tehran’s nuclear weapons program in hopes of ending decades of tensions and confrontations in the Middle East. It’s the first rapprochement between the West and Iran, whose nuclear ambitions - along with North Korea’s - the international community hopes to contain.
U.S. President Barack Obama described the preliminary agreement as “an important first step toward a comprehensive solution,” a six-month tentative deal aimed at giving Iran sanctions relief worth about $7 billion if Teheran stops enriching uranium beyond 5 percent - the level at which it can be used for weapons research - and reduces its stockpile, as well as allows international inspectors greater access to its nuclear sites. The global powers and Iran will be able to move on to follow-up negotiations and bargaining after confidence builds up under stringent supervision and inspection by International Atomic Energy Agency for six months.
Considering its track record on violating obligations, it remains uncertain if the tentative deal will move to the next stage. Iran, which is suspected of nearing the stage of bomb-making capability, must prove its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes during the given period. If not, Iran could face tougher sanctions and possible military intervention.
Israel suspected negotiations would only buy Iran time to clandestinely pursue it weapons program. Conservative politicians in Washington agreed. But the Obama administration pushed ahead with negotiations partly because it desperately needs a diplomatic feat amid a weary domestic political standoff over Obama’s health care program, but also because of the need to deliver a hopeful message to newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani - a relative moderate - who promised to end the country’s decades-old confrontations with the outside world.
If the deal paves the way for a lasting and productive solution to Iran’s nuclear program, it would also lead to a dramatic change in the decades-old tension-ridden relationship between Washington and Tehran. Though conditioned by punitive and military options in case of noncompliance, Iran’s nuclear stalemate has been addressed through diplomatic endeavors. North Korea’s nuclear problems remain despite China’s mediation. But where there is will, there is hope. Iran’s case demonstrates there’s nothing that is impossible.