Nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers, which restarted in Geneva in October 2009, accomplished little more than filling participants' passports with stamps. Over the last four years representatives of Iran and the West have become that much better acquainted with Geneva, Istanbul, Baghdad, Moscow and Almaty. Instead of working toward dismantling the Iranian military nuclear program, these trips turned into nuclear tourism, which the participants were happy to take part in as long as progress was being made. Progress towards an Iranian nuclear weapon, that is.
Some of the talks were a farce (Istanbul), while the most recent talks in Kazakhstan were utterly pointless. Over time, international media coverage has grown scant.
But in the meantime, in June, Hasan Rouhani was elected president of Iran and U.S. President Barack Obama even conversed with him in a historical phone conversation on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. If we figure into this equation the severe sanctions with their serious impact on the Iranian economy and society, we can understand how life was suddenly breathed into the corpse known as negotiations.
Tomorrow in Geneva, the talks will recommence, and the world believes, or at least chooses to believe, that this time it will work out, less for reasons of substance than a smile. In the era of Rouhani, Iran will come to Switzerland all smiles and even with a clear plan and schedule. This is the Islamic republic's new tactic. During the negotiations, Rouhani's new strategy will be discernible. The road to a bomb is paved with good intentions.
There is a limit to how far Iran will go, even in this seemingly new era. Iran's deputy foreign minister explained on Sunday that Iran will not agree to remove the enriched uranium it has accumulated from its territory because this is "a red line for Iran." Iran has a red line? Apparently the country is still not on its knees. The sanctions may be severe, but Iran knows how to correctly read the zeitgeist and arrives in Switzerland as an equal among giants.
In other words, even before the start of talks, Iran has stated that it is unwilling to compromise on uranium enrichment in its territory. Nor will it remove the uranium it has already accumulated from the country. Nor is Iran willing to shut down its underground enrichment facility in Fordo. And it is not willing to stop building its reactor in Arak which is scheduled to become operational at the end of 2014.
And all this, of course, is for "civilian purposes." If the Iranians weren't so transparent, we too might want to believe that the delegations will depart Geneva with more than just chocolate and watches.