This week, Western leaders are meeting with their Iranian counterparts on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting. The two sides are in the final stretch of nuclear negotiations, with two months to go until the November 24th extended deadline.
Although ISIS may overshadow these continued negotiations at the UNGA, the show must go on. Coming to a diplomatic solution is critical to regional stability and in the best interest of both sides. Here are the ‘5 Ws and one H’ of the latest happenings between Iran and the P5+1:
Who: Representatives from Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (United States, Russia, France, China, China) plus Germany comprise the P5+1 group. Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign affairs and Security Policy for the EU, will facilitate the talks along with Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
What: The P5+1 failed to reach their July 20th deadline this summer, unable to bridge the gap on core issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. For the most part those issues remain unresolved. Discrepancies between parties regarding the size and extent of Iran’s nuclear program have kept the group from reaching a comprehensive deal. The number of centrifuges Iran will be allowed to operate, how long Iran’s enrichment program will be restricted, Iran’s breakout capacity, and lack of transparency with the IAEA are chief among these points of contention. While maximalist rhetoric seems to be a problem on both sides, there is still potential for compromise. For instance, negotiators recently proposed a solution that would allow both sides to save face by disconnecting the pipes that connect Iran’s centrifuges.
Where/When: The current round of negotiations is being held alongside the UNGA meeting which will run from September 16 through October 1st at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Why: A deal needs to be reached by the November deadline because the stakes are too high to prolong the process. A potentially unrestricted Iranian nuclear program, increased sanctions and potential military strikes, all of which could happen if there’s no deal, is bad news all around.
During their respective speeches to the UNGA on Wednesday, both president Obama and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani reiterated their commitment to achieving a deal. Obama stated, “America is pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, as part of our commitment to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them.” Rouhani also spoke to Iran’s preference in solving this issue diplomatically saying, “We are of the view that the nuclear issue could only be resolved through negotiation, and those who may think of any other solution are committing a grave mistake…. No one should doubt that compromise and agreement on this issue is in the best interest of everyone especially that of the nations of the region.”
Clearly both heads of state are, at least rhetorically, on the same page. The question is whether they’ll be willing to take the steps necessary to achieve a deal by the November 24th deadline.