x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Prudent and patient effort is required to engage Iran

Negotiations require patience, particularly when international security is at stake.

Negotiations require patience, particularly when international security is at stake. This holds especially true for Iran and the international community, whose tug-of-war over Tehran's contentious nuclear programme has yielded few results in recent months.

For its part, the US administration continues to extend a diplomatic hand. "We've built a broad consensus that will welcome Iran back into the community of nations if it meets its obligations," said the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton last month. But clearly the US continues to prepare for other contingencies.

The US and Europe are also reported to have a new proposal for Iran, which would involve sending 4,400 pounds (1,995 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium out of the country and halt all its enrichment. Reported in The New York Times this week, the proposal appears to be far more stringent than what Iran was offered last year by the so-called P5+1 nations - the UN Security Council's permanent members plus Germany. This sends signals of its own.

If Iran's reaction to the P5+1 agenda is anything to go by, the US may be disappointed. "The West should understand that Iran will never give up its nuclear rights and suspension of uranium enrichment," the Iranian parliament member Vali Esmaeili vowed last week. Mr Esmaeili's resistance is a sentiment that many Iranians share, even as sanctions continue to damage the country's economy.

Iran appears to have little to gain from continuing a nuclear stand-off other than national pride. Though Iran has leaned on trade partners such as China and Russia during the squeeze, Iran is increasingly limited in how it can cope with the sanctions regime - four oil companies pulled out of Iran last month, while 37 more international companies were blacklisted this week for doing business with Iran by the US Treasury. What may be more frustrating for Iran's population are the US import bans on items such as Persian rugs and the increase in prices that may arrive if the government is forced to curtail subsidies for fuel and food.

It is far better for the international community to be patient with sanctions than hastily resort to more aggressive measures. It must also be remembered that those who require the most patience throughout this ordeal are the Iranian people. Their future hinges on a diplomatic solution whose end game remains unclear. Iran's leaders should be aware that it is their own people who have the most to lose when they continue to substitute bluster for substantive discussion.