Former Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki has reportedly delivered a stinging assessment of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team. He cast Iran's negotiators, in comments reported by Iranian news site Baztab, as amateurish and given to posturing, more obsessed with what city to hold nuclear talks, than in making diplomatic progress that could help relieve economic hardship suffered by the Iranian people.
“Is the chief [goal]…obtaining results and solving the problem of 75 million Iranians–or globe-trotting and entering third-party countries?” Baztab cited Mottaki, who served as Iran's foreign minister from 2005-2010.
Mottaki’s reported comments were removed from Baztab's website on Wednesday, but are available on another Persian language site. They appear to respond in part to information in a recent Back Channel report on the proposed negotiating stance put forward by a young advisor to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, who previously served as political editor of Iran's hardline Kayhan newspaper.
“Amid a continued stalemate in efforts to resume nuclear talks, a key advisor to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team has published a proposal he says has been previously presented to the United States and five world powers for resolving international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program,” the Back Channel reported January 22. “The author, Mahdi (or Mehdi) Mohammadi…is one of two key architects of Iran’s nuclear negotiating strategy under the team led by Iran National Security Advisor Saeed Jalili, an Iranian source who requested anonymity said.”
Iran–under the proposal Mohammadi set out in Iran Review Jan. 9–would not begin to discuss curbing its 20% enrichment activities–a chief international demand–until after the lifting of US and European sanctions. Reacting to the proposal, former State Department nonproliferation official Mark Fitzpatrick said it suggests that “Iran is still in the opening salvo stages of negotiations, presenting its maximalist demands.”
Mottaki expressed exasperation at the posturing and “strange pre-conditions,” according to the Baztab report: “When a young journalist from Kayhan, with no experience in diplomacy and international relations, has become …a key member on the nuclear negotiation team, and introduces strange preconditions; what kind of result can we expect from nuclear talks?”
Mottaki also reportedly admonished Iran's nuclear negotiating team over its haggling with the P5+1 over the “marginal issue” of where to hold negotiations. Instead, he suggested, negotiators might better invest their energy in making diplomatic headway that could advance a negotiated settlement that benefits the Iranian people.
“Perhaps,” he reportedly proposed, negotiators should “choose a fixed location for negotiations in a non-partisan country, like Switzerland…and permanently solve the marginal issue of the negotiations' location, and prepare the way for addressing the core of the issue and solving the country's problem.”
“It seems, with respect to the will of the regime for controlling the effects of sanctions…those responsible for negotiating must improve their methods, so that the benefit of these successive negotiations accrue to the country,” he reportedly said.
The Baztab report, entitled “Brothers, the nuclear negotiations hold the fate of 75 million people, they're not work experience,” was kindly translated by Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, editor of Al Monitor's Iran Pulse.