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Iran Press Report: Tehran Wonders What Went Wrong in Geneva

Naturally, the Iranian press has been consumed with deciphering the ups and downs of the nuclear negotiations in Geneva that took place between Iran and the P5+1 nations at the end of last week.  After many signs pointed to an interim deal being prepared for signature, the session ended with no agreement, with many media reports citing objections expressed by the French delegation.  Thus, many Iranian outlets – across the spectrum but especially on the moderate and reformist side – tried to interpret the reasons behind the French objection and the talks’ failure and tried to prognosticate the road ahead.  However, among the conservative media, such speculation was secondary to a sense of vindication of hardliners’ prior admonitions that the United States would never be a fair negotiating partner and that no deal would result from the talks.

Much of the Iranian press focused their energy on the question of France’s reported role in raising objections that were blamed for preventing a deal from being reached.  In the reformist Etemaad, Karim Erghandepour argued that there was hope that opponents of a deal will not be victorious, but still, he expressed surprise as to why France felt the need to intervene, apparently in defense of Israel’s interests.  He suggested two possible explanations: “First is that France may be using this extremist approach to try to restore its place and increase its importance in the world system.  Second is that…as the French government is facing an unstable time in domestic public opinion, it may be trying to reassert itself domestically with this action.” In the reformist Shargh, Ali Bigdeli implied that America was happy to have France take the lead on opposing the agreement on behalf of Israel and the Arab monarchies, and speculated on reasons for French FM Laurent Fabius’s opposition, with an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia: “France’s relations with a certain pivotal Arab country, a country which has overtly threatened Iran, must be mentioned.  It must also be understood that Fabius is Jewish, and thus seeks to maintain Israel’s interests.” In Mardom Salari, Ali Vadaye agreed with the latter assessment: “François Hollande, who is struggling with a deep financial crisis and the possibility of a defeat in the next election, has chosen an invasive foreign policy to divert the public’s attention.”  In Etemaad, meanwhile, Fereydoun Majlesi argued that the attention on France was largely irrelevant. “The French should know that their approval or disapproval of this issue is not very important as it is the Americans who will make the final decision in this regard, he wrote.

Many in the conservative media, however, focused less on the actual negotiating tactics used and the events that transpired in Geneva and more on expressing a sense of vindication in their belief that no good agreement would come from diplomatic interaction with the U.S.  In the hardline Javan, Yadollah Javani wrote, “Even if Iran stops all its nuclear activities, the West will never ease the pressure on the Islamic Republic, as the nuclear issue has been just one of the excuses for the pressure, and they will come up with new excuses like human rights and terrorism.”  In Kayhan, influential hardline commentator Hossein Shariatmadari praised the resilience of Iran’s negotiating team in not being forced into a poor deal, and expressed vindication in his newspaper’s constant view that the West, and America in particular, was not serious about making an acceptable deal with Iran: “The blackmail of America and its allies, which used the tactic of ‘good cop, bad cop’ at the negotiating table in Geneva, paled when confronted by our nation’s nuclear team, and, just as could have been seen in advance – and the Kayhan did on many occasions – it resulted in the Geneva talks ending unfinished and with no result, and many lessons and words of warning can be drawn from this.”  In particular, he said Zarif’s team was right to demand that any agreement include, in writing, recognition of Iran’s right to an “industrial” level of 5 percent uranium enrichment, which he says the West would not allow. 

APPENDIX: Translated Summaries of Selected Opinion Pieces

“Swimming Against the Wave.” Karim Erghandepour, Etemaad, 21 Aban 1392 / 12 November 2013.
Erghandepour asks about the road ahead for the negotiations in the reformist Etemaad, while questioning the significance of France’s objections, which he blames for the disintegration of the progress toward a deal at Geneva. “The breathless negotiations of Saturday night apparently did not come to its ultimate result with the rock-throwing by France. The most important question is whether the ten day period planned before the next round of negotiations will open a path to the apparent deal or will the situation become more complicated, to the benefit of the opponents of agreement?”  He writes that there are two likely possibilities: first, that public opinion in the world – including France – will be expressed in favor of sealing a deal, which will be to Iran’s benefit. “In this case,” he says, “as could be inferred from the high spirits of Mr. Zarif in his last press conference, this agreement will come to fruition, if not now in the near future.”  However, he writes, the extended timeframe of negotiations also gives opponents of a deal extra time to “spread fires” that can hamper chances of an agreement.  He says it appears that the opponents’ attempts to sow discontent at the prospects of a deal will likely not meet with many backers, but that the unexpected behavior of France, which he says seemed more Israeli than French, remains a concern.   “The issue of the French behavior has been met with question marks in the world community, particularly as the current French government is Socialist in nature, and thus it should be in line with, and even passionate about, policies aimed at fostering agreement, more so than biased and illogical policies.”  Given the confusion over France’s role – especially, as he notes, as the U.S., Britain, and Germany are far more likely to be supporters of Israel’s interests – he suggests two explanations. “First is that France may be using this extremist approach to try to restore its place and increase its importance in the world system.  Second is that…as the French government is facing an unstable time in domestic public opinion, it may be trying to reassert itself domestically with this action.”


“The Real Nuclear Address.” Ali Bigdeli, Shargh, 21 Aban 1392 / 12 November 2013.

In the reformist daily Shargh, Bigdeli writes that it became clear during last week’s Geneva talks that the pure technological, legal, and security issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear program are entirely solvable, but political pressure – most notably due to the influence of Arab monarchies and “the Jewish lobby” on the U.S. and France – prevented a deal from being signed this weekend.  “Based on the information I have, this was unrelated to the content of the nuclear dossier and its technological and legal specifics, nor was it related to the Iranian proposals which were presented to the other side in PowerPoint by our nation’s foreign minister.  Redoubled pressure, exerted by certain Arab countries and Israel on the United States and France, is the principal reason for the ‘suspended agreement.’”  He implies that America was happy to have France take the lead on opposing the agreement on behalf of Israel and the Arab monarchies, and speculates on reasons for French FM Laurent Fabius’s opposition, with an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia: “France’s relations with a certain pivotal Arab country, a country which has overtly threatened Iran, must be mentioned.  It must also be understood that Fabius is Jewish, and thus seeks to maintain Israel’s interests.”



“After 10 Years, Period. New Line!” Hossein Shariatmadari, Kayhan, 20 Aban 1392 / 11 November 2013.

In Kayhan, influential hardline editor Shariatmadari praises Iran’s resilience in the face of the P5+1 and says the blame for the talks’ failure to reach a deal lies with the West, as could have been predicted.  “The blackmail of America and its allies, which used the tactic of ‘good cop, bad cop’ at the negotiating table in Geneva, paled when confronted by our nation’s nuclear team, and just as could have been seen in advance – and the Kayhan did on many occasions – it resulted in the Geneva talks ending unfinished and with no result, and many lessons and words of warning can be drawn from this.”  Shariatmadari praises the Iranian negotiating team – who have had a tenuous relationship with his hardline paper – for holding firm to its principles and avoiding being pushed into accepting an unfair deal.  In particular, he says Zarif’s team was right to demand that any agreement include, in writing, recognition of Iran’s right to an “industrial” level of 5 percent uranium enrichment, which he says the West would not allow.  However, he says, there is some blame to fall on the Iranian negotiating team.  In particular, he says the team should have stood up to the world media and told them the truth about the negotiations, instead of remaining silent and letting the P5+1 tell the media that Iran backed out on the deal.  However, at the very least, he says, “the Iranian nuclear negotiating team smartly had no intention of crossing redlines drawn for it and did not allow the enemy to implement its deceptive project under the guise of hypocritical smiles and greetings.”

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