The next round of Iranian nuclear talks will take place in Vienna on June 16-20. After rather disappointing meetings two weeks ago in which very little progress was made, and with a quickly approaching deadline for an agreement by July 20, foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke out yesterday to reassure the West of Iran’s serious intentions to negotiate. He stressed that Iran is determined to find a solution and aims to clarify any doubts about the Iranian nuclear program. Uncertainty about its nuclear program stems primarily from the extent of Iran’s enrichment of uranium, which has the potential to be converted to make nuclear weapons; in this regard, the Arak research reactor remains a concern since by-products could be used to create these weapons.
Amidst all this speculation, Iran has continued to deny any intentions of producing nuclear weapons. However, their desire for an independent atomic energy program has been raising suspicions. The US and the international community have therefore kept pressure on Iran to negotiate an agreement by the continued use of sanctions that Zarif refers to as brutal obstacles. These sanctions have drastically impacted Iran’s economy, bringing Iran to the negotiating table.
Last November, there was a deal to provide Iran with $7 billion in sanctions relief as a part of the ongoing negotiations process. Although this might appear to some to be of significant help to the Iranian economy, Hamid Dabashi, an Iranian-born professor at Colombia University, believes that this aid was not nearly enough to foster economic recovery in Iran, and sanctions continue to be a huge detriment to the country.
While there continues to be widespread fears that an easing of these sanctions may weaken an incentive for Iran to be willing to negotiate, more progress should be made in the negotiations come July 20 with Zarif’s recent reassurance that Iran is serious about reaching an agreement. Until then, sanctions remain a tool to incentivize Iran to negotiate in good faith and meet the security interests of the international community.