By: Ana Davila
Controversial, intimidating, uncertain and defiant – Iran’s nuclear program is and has always been center of debate, alarm and suspicion in the international community. Today, the topic that had been on and off the table in the past years, stimulated by the “carrot and stick” approach of the West, is being reopened and placed in the center of the agenda for 2013.
The Presidential elections in the U.S, the violent development of the Syrian Crisis and the political struggles taking place in Israel were all events that eclipsed the issue for almost two months. But 2013 has set the reflectors on Iran again. It has only been a couple of weeks since the year started and the topic has already regained its priority seat in the world’s eyes. For Iran, 2013 starts with the alarmist declarations of Henry Kissinger, the strong statements of France, and the urgent call of Israel referring to the Iranian nuclear program as the “world’s main problem today”.
Last year, the world witnessed the group know as the P5+1, composed by the U.S, U.K, France, China, Russia and Germany, juggling in a tightrope with Iran in an attempt to dissuade the Islamic Republic from continuing its alarming uranium enrichment while interests, capabilities and leaderships clashed and collided more than once. However, the scenario for negotiations during 2013 will be characterized by a different tone, perhaps a more hostile and challenging one.
After the first talks of the year held in Tehran between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran yielded little fruit, the P5+1 will meet again with the Persian nation in the following months in an attempt to push negotiations towards a more promising bargain.
It is important to note that last year’s talks in Turkey were diplomatically moderated by the host country’s willingness to support Iran. However, this year will be different. The recent tension between the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Iranian president Ahmadineyad regarding the Syrian crisis has left Iran isolated in the region in terms of alliances and support. It is true that China and Russia might still be able to help Iran, but there is no doubt that the support of Turkey will be missed for its relevance, regional closeness and its neutrality between the west and the east.
In this matter, Netanyahu’s recent reelection as Prime Minister of Israel only adds to the tension and pressure around Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu’s position of hostility towards Iran and its program led last year to an uncomfortable encounter with President Obama, when Israel pressured the US to intervene militarily in Iran. Although the recently appointed Secretary of State Kerry has made it public that he will do everything in his power to prevent a nuclear conflict with Iran, Israel is a powerful actor itself with the capabilities, the resources and, most importantly, the conviction to undermine Iran’s stability in its vulnerable condition.
Finally, it is important to highlight the economic effects that the nuclear crisis has caused in Iran. During 2012, the effects of the economic sanctions applied to Iran by the U.S and its allies were felt dramatically. According to Jay Newton-Small, the Rial “has been devalued by more than 50%, oil exports have decreased by 45% and there is an annual inflation rate above 50%”. It is expected that 2013 will be a tougher year on the Iranian economy, especially if the scheduled meetings between the IAEA or the P5+1 and Iran do not reach an agreement.
Although willing to hold talks with the group of pressuring nations during 2013, Iran has not showed the faintest sign of giving in to the demands outlined in previous rounds. The Islamic Republic stands strong on its conviction of defending its rights of uranium enrichment entitled by its adhesion to the Non Proliferation Treaty in 1968, but most importantly, it stands for a bigger project, one of regional leadership and power.
But for how long can Iran take it? With the economic pressure boiling up, the international community determined to gain control over the situation, a new term for Bibi Netanyahu in Israel, and the lack of support from its regional neighbors, 2013 will be a decisive year for Iran, the course of its nuclear program, and identity