Experts on Iran seem to agree on one thing: at this time, there is no way it would agree to Israel’s conditions and dismantle its nuclear weapons program. On cue, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and the supreme leader’s representative in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Hojjatoleslam Ali Saeedi, ruled out on Sunday any stop to enrichment in Iran.
Saeedi told Iran’s Tasnim News Agency that a total stop to enrichment was “out of the question.”
On Sunday, proponents of a deal, including Iran, were blaming France’s tough position for spoiling the party. Iranian businessmen mulled reducing trade with France, according to state news agency IRNA.
Harold Rhode, a senior fellow at the New-York-based Gatestone Institute and a former adviser at the Pentagon, told The Jerusalem Post that what happened here was that the Iranians sensed American weakness, "and when they sense weakness they pounce."
"This is obvious by the fact that the Iranians hardened their position, once they realized that [US Secretary of State John] Kerry was flying directly from Israel to Geneva in order to sign. Iran saw America begging, and kicked America in the teeth," said Rhode.
Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and a Qom trained Shi’ite theologian, told the Post that Iran is negotiating because it “needs to lift some sanctions,” particularly in its banking and oil industry.
“Time is moving against Iran’s interest. It is losing money. They don’t want people to panic because of economic shock, which is expected if some of the sanctions aren’t lifted,” he said.
“If pressure continues, there is a possibility Iran could give up on some parts of its program,” he said, but added that Israel’s demand for a complete dismantling of the program “is not going to happen; and the West is not seeking this.”
Khalaji said that France moved to block a deal out of disappointment with the US, which coordinated and promoted sanctions for five years but now will need EU cooperation in lifting them, since opposition in Congress would limit the amount of relief that President Barack Obama could offer.
Khalaji said that if no deal is reached, it would not be the end of negotiations, and that both Israel and Washington would probably tolerate negotiations dragging on until the end of the year.
National Iranian American Council president Trita Parsi told the Post that Iran is prepared for the failure of negotiations.
“French and congressional intransigence, if it continues, will perfectly position Iran for its plan B: Pass the blame to the West, and cause the sanctions regime internationally to fall apart without Iran giving any concessions,” he said.
“Rather than France getting a better deal by its hard line, there will likely be no deal if their intransigence continues.”
Prof. Ali Ansari of St. Andrews University in Scotland, founding director of the Institute for Iranian Studies, told the Post that it was difficult to comment without knowing what specifically was on offer, and that despite the French getting the blame for the lack of a deal, “I think the differences were probably broader than most would accept.”
Ansari said that Iran wanted permanent sanctions relief, but was unlikely to get it, so “the P5+1 may need to find different ways to sweeten the pill.”