Report of the 11th ICDT Panel Discussion on “Prospect of Vienna Talks: Players, Roles and Narratives”

On Thursday, February 17th a session about one of the challenging international topics was held. The topic of discussion was “Prospect of Vienna Talks: Players, Roles and Narratives” which is considered a buzzword in the political field. This session was held by the Iranian Council for Defending the Truth, the Student English Association, and the Strategic Resistance Think Tank of Imam Sadiq University. This session contained three guests and speakers who had various mindsets and prospects about the Vienna Talks, also the coordinator of the session was Dr. Mohammad Hassan Khani from Imam Sadiq University. Initially, these three speakers talked about what they thought and what they expect from the talks, and then we had a controversial Q&A at the end of the session. More than 40 participants from different parts of the world took part in the session.

Prfo. Shireen T. Hunter: Iran’s Demands Is Reasonable

The panel discussion was opened by Prof. Shireen Hunter’s lecture. She is an author and professor at Georgetown University, the US. She noted that “What just happened in terms of problems in JCPOA, is a fundamental problem and symptom that there is between Iran and western countries. I’m not the person who blames one side and praises the other side, or who is right and who is wrong, but lots of blames would go to Iran because of its activities since the 1990s and 2000s. Of course, there were so many groups and nations that were against this agreement even in the US.”

Prof. Hunter  argued that the main purpose of Iran for reaching this agreement was to “improve its economic condition and make some support. But as I said many groups tried to undermine it.”

Author of “Iran Divided: The Historical Roots of Iranian Debates On identity, Culture and Governance”, then, addressed to Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and said “After changing the government, Donald Trump was influenced by opponents of the agreement and withdraw from it and multiply the pressures on Iran. In the point of my view, the basic problem of Iran is that they want sanctions really, and they want sanctions to be removed at the same time! Also, I think the attitude of Iran in the Middle East generated the whole conflict and if Iran wants the can easily be resolved. In general, I think Iran wants sanctions to be relieved and has a guarantee that they don’t impose sanctions again on them and don’t withdraw from that that I guess it’s reasonable.”

She added “We must notice that the economy of the US is mostly private, and it means they can in some cases do a different thing in comparison to the government. And the government can’t force them to do something…On the other hand, Iran wants a guarantee for the JCPOA and at the same time they want to do the same policies in the Middle East (about Yemen, Syria, …) just like before. I doubt the congress of the US accepts all conditions that the Iranian side wants in the agreement.”

She also briefly explained the role of other parties in the negotiation and said “I think China and Russia are manipulating the process of negotiation, and it’s OK because all the sides seeking their interests in the negotiation! Even more, Iran should give up on guarantees I think, because there is no guarantee in the international policy.”

Prof. Hunter concluded “I should say that I doubt the US removes all the sanctions from Iran and some of them will remain. But I think this agreement will be useful for Iran because right now many countries even its friend, are benefiting from the misery of Iran. And let’s be honest, JCPOA is depending mostly on the US than the other western nations which are not so determinant in the story.”

Prof. Heinz Gartner: The Deal Is at the Final Phase

As the second panelist, Heinz Gartner, an Austrian Professor at University of Vienna and Chair of the Advisory Board of the International Institute for Peace (IIP) gave his lecture. He believed that “The deal is at the final phase and last-minute bargaining. I can say that political decisions have been made. Simultaneously and opposition against the agreement is building up in the US congress.  Most people are arguing that no deal is better than a deal.”

He added “Now we are at the 8th round is the agreement on what is remaining. There is shaping a broad agreement on verification of both, Iran’s nuclear program and on verification of sanctions relief (for example the amount of oil sales). Also, there are lots of technical steps that I don’t dive into because of the time. If we hesitate a lot on it, unfortunately, the situation might be worse after 2 years with a new president in the White House.”

Prof. Gartner also talked about the possibilities that might the deal fail and said “A failure of the talks would increase with the suspicion that Iran is working on the bomb, or on the other hand that it would be certain that Iran is enhancing its nuclear program.”

The author of “Iran in the International System: Between Great Powers and Great Ideas” pointed out the successful scenarios and noted its consequences for Iran and international system:

  • EU-Iran economic relations improve;
  • Iran’s economy would get a boost and would bring internal stability; and
  • The risk of nuclear proliferation would be dramatically reduced.”

Dr. Jin Liangxiang: China Supports Political Solutions in Iran’s Nuclear Issue

The third panelist was Dr. Jin Liangxiang who is a senior research fellow at Shanghai Institute of International Studies. He illustrated that “The Vienna Talks are not just about Iran’s nuclear program. We Chinese people that these talks are about how to revive and resume the JCPOA. Many scholars say that the result of the agreement will be in the hands of the US, but I would say that Iran will project the direction of the deal.”

He added “I think the US always will be suspicious about the nuclear issues of Iran, and this will not be solved, if they reach a deal. In addition, this deal may have some benefits for Iran, but I imagine that it will be limited.”

Senior research fellow at SIIS addressed to the role of China in the Vienna Talks and said “China thinks that this deal will play a main role in the legitimation of Iran’s activities, and we are big supports of broad trading and peace.”

He argued that “I think the mindset of America that it can withdraw from any agreement by itself is a serious problem and danger to the world. It can undermine the government and nations…I say again that China would support political solutions in Iran’s nuclear issue.”


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