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Opinion

Iran talks: Why time is ripe for compromise

Positive signals from Iran and the United States are encouraging as talks on Tehran's nuclear program get underway, writes a political expert from Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

By Mansour Salsabili / April 13, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, is escorted by technicians during a tour of Tehran's research reactor center Feb. 15. Op-ed writer Mansour Salsabili lists four ingredients for successful talks between Iran and international negotiators, including a "win-win negotiation" in which each side has "something tangible to show to the public back home."

Iranian President's Office/AP/File

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Cambridge, Mass.

The opportunity for a compromise on nuclear and other regional issues between Iran and the United States has never been so ripe as now, when talks resume between Iran and international negotiators in Istanbul this weekend.

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The desire for progress on both sides of the table is observable. What can ensure a tangible result?

The answer is an active effort to keep this new engagement continuous and irreversible. Just as nonproliferation is vital to the US, the peaceful use of nuclear technology is valued in Iran as an inalienable right. Hence, an agenda for an ongoing negotiation that balances these two interests must be proposed at the very first meeting to capture the momentum.

The failure of past negotiations is often associated with domestic political rivalry in both Iran and the US. It seems today, however, that both sides have overcome internal divisions.

That Iran agreed to take part in talks without further delay, in spite of sharp critics ranging from military and political officials to the Tehran Friday prayers leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, is a good sign and a momentous decision.

At the same time, the US administration is in an election year. The Obama administration must make a courageous decision considering the criticism that anti-Iranian hardliners will use to foil any credible political deal with Iran. Thus, this is a promising start.

Another encouraging sign is the reappointment of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the symbol of pragmatism in the Iranian body politic, as the head of Expediency Council, the body that advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It was the supreme leader who reappointed Mr. Rafsanjani, despite overt enmity against him expressed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the last seven years.

The leader’s hailing of Rafsanjani for all his endeavors came at a time when Rafsanjani recalled a sensitive letter he drafted to the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a couple of years before his demise. The letter spoke of the need to resolve relations between Iran and the US  and also improve relations with Saudi Arabia, not only for mutual oil policies but also for regional peace and tranquility.

These are important signals from the Iranian side, sent at the highest level.

In the US, President Obama asserts that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear technology. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton affirmatively reflects on the religious decree of Ayatollah Khamenei against the production and use of nuclear weapons. Mrs. Clinton has urged Iran to translate its religious belief into active government policy – including allowing inspections and exchanging some of Iran's enriched uranium for fuel for its research reactor.

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