Despite domestic obstacles in the US and Iran, talks over Iran's nuclear programme resume
Geneva (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A new round of talks on Iran's nuclear programme begins tomorrow. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are due to meet today in Geneva to revive stalled talks
The 5 + 1 group (US, Russia, China, France and Great Britain, plus Germany) and Iran have to reach a high-level political agreement on Tehran's nuclear programme (cutting its uranium enrichment needs) by 1 March and confirm the full technical details of the agreement by 1 July. In exchange, sanctions against Iran would be lifted.
For Iran, this would be a huge opportunity to breathe new life in its economy and break free from an embargo that has existed in one form or another for more than 30 years.
For the world, especially the United States, it would mean working with Iran, especially now that Washington is involved against ISIS in Iraq, where Tehran could provide a decisive contribution.
According to several experts, Iran is already engaged in air strikes in areas controlled by Islamic State and has been resupplying the Iraqi army with weapons.
However, leaders in both countries face domestic opposition. In the United States, the Obama administration has to deal with elements of the Republican Party opposed to any agreement with Iran, as well as meet the concerns voiced by Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In Iran, President Hassan Rouhani has been trying to curb the influence of the regime's "hawks", especially the Revolutionary Guards, who are trying to define any agreement as a humiliation for the country. Some recent statements appear to indicate that Rouhani is more confident about reining the opposition.
Reports on 28 December indicate that Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, slammed those engaged in "unsubstantiated" criticism of Rouhani's economic policies.
Shamkhani warned that insufficient attention to the country's economy could have profound security and social consequences for Iran, especially at a time of declining in oil prices, which threaten to weaken the Iranian government's budget. The rear admiral's views are that more important since he is a former commander of the Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
For his part, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticised the corps on 29 December by asserting that national strength is not just based on missile range (which is what concerns Israel the most).
The Iranian leader said that having a strong missile defence but lagging in industry and agriculture as a result of the embargo means that Iran lacks overall national strength.
Talking to hundreds of Iranian economists and business leaders at a conference on 4 January, Mr Rouhani called for an end to Iran's isolation in the world. Iran, he said, "cannot have sustained [economic] growth when isolated". In his view, "Our ideals are not bound to [nuclear] centrifuges".
Fed up with the embargo, Iranians are increasingly backing Rouhani's line. Many of them agree that international isolation has impoverished the country whilst enriching the Revolutionary Guards, who are thought to be running sanctions-busting operations.