IRAN: Is peace possible between Washington, Tehran?
Francois Nicoullaud: The Americans have apologized already for the wrongdoings of the past, especially for the CIA coup against Mossadegh. The difficulty for the Iranians in apologizing for their own wrongdoings, ...
... namely the American hostages episode, comes from the fact that the takeover of the American Embassy has [been] built up as a founding myth of the Islamic Revolution, resembling the storming of the Bastille at the beginning of the French Revolution.
But I certainly believe that the Iranians, apart from the political meaning of the event, could, and should, express, on humane grounds, their regrets and sympathy for the personal sufferings inflicted on the American hostages. Many of them already do so in private.
Nicoullaud: That also will come, in time. There should be a step-by-step approach. I believe the nuclear issue is the easiest to solve of all the problems that the West has with Iran, precisely because of its scientific and technical nature. It is much easier to verify the application of an agreement built on technical checks, controls and inspections than an agreement touching on the ways and means of Iran in the region, be it in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq or Afghanistan.
Nicoullaud: Suspicion is on both sides. But things change. This regime also is sensitive to public opinion. And the public opinion in Iran certainly favors coming to terms with the Americans.
Nicoullaud: One basic mistake on the part of the West, of the Europeans, was to think that we could seduce Iran with carrots. The Europeans tried to put together some kind of package containing civilian planes, oil drilling equipment, power plants, economic cooperation, membership to the World Trade Organization. ... But the package could not take form as long as the Americans were not ready to lift their economic sanctions.
And furthermore, it was basically a wrong approach to reward Iran for not trying to produce a nuclear bomb. Being a member of international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is Iran's simple duty to remain away from such a endeavor. So we created a sort of bazaar atmosphere, which was very detrimental to the negotiation.
Nicoullaud: Obviously it still has to build a united approach, and this is quite natural for a young administration. Discussions are going on, and one can see progress. I guess that the Americans will be ready intellectually to negotiate by the end of the summer. So the critical period will be October, November and December 2009.