Just last week, the top negotiators of Iran and the world powers saw each other almost after eight months in a session in the Kazakh city of Almaty while expectations from the session were low on both sides. But the unexpected breakthrough declared at a press conference at the end of the two-day talks almost surprised the world. Iran's lead negotiator Saeed Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - who presides over the delegations of the world powers in the talks with Iran - both expressed optimism about the future of the talks, and described the session as "positive".
Speaking to reporters at a press conference at the end of the talks, Lady Ashton said that the Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members - the US, Britain, France, China and Russia - plus Germany) have offered a "revised and constructive" proposal to the Iranian side. "Iran's proposals have been included in the revised plan," she said. Ashton said experts should discuss and study the offer and Iran will have the time to study the proposal as well.
She stated that the G5+1 member states are united and want to be "positive towards confidence-building", and added, "The Iranian side had a positive view and this makes me hopeful. We strove much on behalf of the UN to reach tangible results and build confidence."
"Mr. Jalili has a positive view, but we should look to see what experts' view will be," she added.
Iran's lead negotiator Saeed Jalili also announced that the Group 5+1 have in Almaty talks proposed that both Iran and the world powers take certain tangible steps to build each other's confidence more.
"The Group 5+1 proposed that some tangible steps be taken in the next 6 months to build confidence, and certain proposals were presented in this regard," Jalili said at the press conference.
"Certain points in this response were more realistic compared to the past and effort has been made to come closer to Iran's viewpoints," Jalili added. "We assume the talks as a positive step which can be completed with a constructive approach and reciprocal steps," Iran's lead negotiator concluded.
The G5+1 had changed a number of their proposals to get closer to Iran's views, which was encouraging to Iran and the two sides swiftly decided to continue the negotiations in a few weeks' time.
At the end of the talks, Iran and the world powers agreed to hold an experts meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 17-18 and then continue their talks at the level of their top negotiators in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on April 5-6.
From then on the world expected the two sides to tone down their remarks and try to push their stances closer to each other, but the words uttered by the Western officials in the last few days indicated that they are under the strong influence of the Israeli lobby and have given up the new path of interaction with Iran to return to their previous course or have originally meant no change and actually intended to continue their dual-track approach of pressure, intimidation and threat along with talks with Iran.
Different officials of the western states, specially the US, have in the last few days repeated their warmongering rhetoric against Iran. US Secretary of State John Kerry said during his tour of the region that there is a time limit for talks with Iran.
Following his meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Feisal, the US secretary of state alleged in an interview with ABC that Iran has come closer to the production of nuclear weapons, while the United States' 2009 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) - a conglomerate of 16 American intelligence bodies - endorsed the civilian nature of Iran's nuclear activities, saying there is no shred of evidence to prove that Iran's nuclear program has ever moved towards military goals, at least since 2003.
US Vice President Joe Biden who insisted on direct talks with Iran and extended such an offer to the Islamic Republic officials in early February, was at his Biden-est at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) earlier this week and told his audience in the largest and most influential Zionist lobby in the US that the "window (of talks with Iran) is closing" and "all options are on the table", the worn-out catchphrase used by Washington officials to threaten Iran with military action.
Not just several more American statesmen and diplomats, like the US envoy to the IAEA board of governors, but the EU officials also followed suit and took up the same path of threat and intimidation, while both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the six world powers are in the midst of bargains and negotiations with Iran and when their negotiators have for the first time voiced optimism about achieving positive results in the talks with Iran.
It is strange that the 27-member European Union in a statement issued at the Tuesday meeting of the IAEA board of governors underlined that Iran should halt its uranium enrichment activities, while there has been no such demand for the suspension or halt of Iran's uranium enrichment activities in the Almaty talks. The G5+1's proposal only wanted the imposition of certain restrictions (and not a halt of) on Iran's 20-percent enrichment activities.
But why does the West underline the positive aspects and progress in talks with Iran and yet renews threats to the country?
One can say the West wants to force Iran to make it decision about the G5+1 proposal under psychological pressure to make it accept the offer with no delay and no objection.
The EU statement's stress on the suspension of Iran's enrichment activities reinvigorates the speculations that the West wants to make Iran take the first step and then give up its entire enrichment program in return for the removal of all sanctions, a demand that Iran has emphatically rejected. Tehran has repeatedly announced that its enrichment program is non-negotiable.
The western states' growing rhetoric just one week after they described the Almaty talks with Iran as "positive" certainly raises Iran's deep doubt and suspicion about the West's honesty and sincerity in dealing with its nuclear issue, and makes Tehran bring up its guards once again. Many believed that the world powers, specially their top negotiator Lady Ashton, are smart enough to make an optimum use of the present opportunity, but the present discourse in the West is narrowing down this path, dashing the high hopes of success which were born in Kazakhstan.
If the US-led West really intends to obtain its desirable results in the talks with Tehran, it would be much better off if it gives up its hostile approach and remarks - which has been its main and only discourse and approach towards Iran in the last few years and produced no result but a widening gap between the two sides - and try to work out a win-win game through interaction and cooperation with Iran.
Written by: Seyed Ali Behnam
Seyed Ali Behnam is a university professor and has been teaching at various academic centers in Tehran, including the International Relations College of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Islamic Azad University and Imam Sadeq University, for the last 20 years. He has also worked for different media in and outside Iran as a journalist, editor, commentator and analyst since 1995.