Article in Fars News Agency Hints Tehran May Be Open to Macron’s Proposal

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Sep 22, 2017
Article in Fars News Agency Hints Tehran May Be Open to Macron’s Proposal

An analysis article in Iran’s Fars News Agency suggests that Tehran may be open to French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to “supplement” the Iran nuclear deal if such negotiations are to start near the year 2025. But it stressed that Tehran will under no circumstances hold talks about the country’s missile program. “At present, the French proposal seeks to address two issues: the sunset provision about Iran’s nuclear activities after 2025 and the country’s missile program. But other issues such as Iran’s actions in the region may also be added,” wrote the outlet, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.).  Such negotiations should take place perhaps in 2023 or sometime close to that, it added.

The article also referred to an interview in Aftab Yazd daily with Faridoon Majlesi, a former Iranian diplomat, on Macron’s proposal. Majlesi said that the French proposal may not necessarily be a bad deal for Iran as in 10 years Trump will not be U.S. president and Iran will be a much stronger nation. “The French president’s remarks stem from American pressure and it is not intended to threaten Iran. France has assigned negotiations over J.C.P.O.A. [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] to the distant future. Then, there will be no Mr. Trump or his threats. Nor will there be any sign of extremist American position on the J.C.P.O.A.”

The article, however, ruled out any compromise on Iran’s missile program. “With regard to the missile issue that Mr. Macron specifically emphasized on, it should be stated that negotiation on this issue will seriously run counter to Iran’s clear position that the country’s defense capabilities are not negotiable. It should be made clear to the French side that Iran’s missile power is not open to negotiation now or after 2025.”

Comment: While the three European signatories of the Iran nuclear deal – France, Germany and Britain – share Washington’s concern about Iran’s ballistic missile activities and destabilizing role in the Middle East, they do not support the Trump administration’s potential plan to scrap the nuclear accord. They believe that Iran has complied with the agreement and that the accord has achieved its objective of preventing Iran from marching toward a nuclear bomb.

Fearing that Trump may walk away from the deal, however, France has recently suggested that the nuclear agreement can be “supplemented” to address Iran’s missile program and the “sunset clause” in the J.C.P.O.A. that allows Iran to resume nuclear enrichment after 2025.

Iranian leaders have publicly rejected Macron’s proposal.  “Under no circumstances, the Islamic Republic of Iran will hold talks over the J.C.P.O.A.,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, on September 19.  “This negotiation has taken place once and Iran held talks with the 5+1 countries for a long time and reached an agreement. No doubts from any countries regarding this accord is acceptable and we will not accept any such proposals,” Velayati, a former Iranian foreign minister, added in a reference to Macron’s suggestion.

The chairman of Iranian Parliament's Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, echoed a similar view. “No negotiations to change the J.C.P.O.A. will take place and America is obligated to implement this international document as one of its signatories,” he stressed.

On September 14, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also dismissed the possibility of renegotiating the nuclear deal. “The #JCPOA is not (re)negotiable. A "better" deal is pure fantasy. About time for U.S. to stop spinning and begin complying, just like Iran,” he tweeted.

Despite Tehran’s firm position, the article in Fars indicates that the Islamic Republic may be open to negotiations on parts of the nuclear deal. But it is not clear why Iranian analysts believe that the United States or European powers would want to start such negotiations after five years and not now.