Iranians: Will they be the lion or the fox?

Iranians embrace #NailTheDeal hashtag campaign in support of an agreement over the nuclear talks in Lausanne.

    Ayatollah Khamenei has said all the sanctions must be lifted at the same time [EPA]
    Ayatollah Khamenei has said all the sanctions must be lifted at the same time [EPA]

    I have a 70-year-old aunt, or khaleh, who lives in Tehran, and has recently become one of the more notable figures in the Iran's nuclear negotiating team.

    Aunt Mahin achieved her fame neither as a nuclear scientist nor as a political figure. I first learned about her role when I received a call from my mother in Tehran while Iran and the United States were extending the interim agreement in Vienna. My mother was ecstatic that a comprehensive deal was reached, explaining that she learned the news from my Aunt Mahin.

    Well educated and in good health, my aunt claimed that she heard this on the state radio.

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    Impatiently, I tried to explain to my mother over the phone that I was standing in front of the Palais Coburg in Vienna where the negotiations were taking place and all indications suggested that no comprehensive deal would be reached but that the interim deal was going to be extended.

    Tweeting Aunt Mahin

    That evening, I tweeted what had been in my Aunt Mahin's (and perhaps millions of other Iranians') heart - that on the eve of November 23, 2014, Iranians had hoped and wished for a comprehensive deal.  To my surprise, my tweet was retweeted hundreds of times making my aunt famous.

    In the last four weeks, in a series of very intense meetings in Switzerland, senior Iranian and US officials put a great deal of effort toward reaching what could be called a "soft agreement", which has been described as a "framework agreement" or "mutual understanding", in order to continue the talks for another three months before the major deadline.

    US Congress obliged the negotiators to reach this political agreement by March 24 as proof that the talks were progressing. Otherwise, Congress would impose a new round of sanctions regardless of whether it would jeopardise the talks.

    Congress's deadline passed with no agreement but an earlier agreement between Iran and the US with former EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton reached last November stated that a political agreement should be concluded by March 31.

    After 18 intense months of negotiations, neither the Iranians nor the journalists covering these talk are ready to give up. At each meeting, there is a new trend in hashtags and today in Lausanne the most popular one is #NailTheDeal.


    It was clear that the US and Iranian negotiating teams worked hard with the aim of reaching the US congress deadline, while giving the headline that my aunt and millions of Iranians have been wishing to hear.

    What made the talks last week in Lausanne so much more diverse and hopeful was the onset of the Persian New Year, or Nawroz, which raised expectations and hopes that the nation would receive the gift of a framework agreement on the eve of Nawroz (March 21).

    'Are you a lion?'

    Being eager and impatient like the other journalists who were camped in the lobby of the historical hotel Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne the day before Nawroz, I shouted at Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif a question in Persian to see whether he would give us a hint. My question was a famous expression known by all Iranians.

    It was late at night on the day before Nawroz and Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry were walking out of a meeting when I asked, "Shir hastid?"- Are you a lion?

    The correct Persian expression is "Are you a lion or a fox?" - it essentially means, are you a victor or loser. Not wishing to insult the foreign minister, I omitted the latter half of the expression but he, like any other Iranian, understood the meaning. With some hesitation he replied: "We are always a lion", and continued, "and on Nawroz all Iranians will be lions."

    I ran to my editor to prepare for a major article as I got the hint that the soft deal was coming soon.

    I promised many friends and relatives to make the first call or send the first text message to them when we learned about the deal but I was not sure I could handle this historical moment by thinking of anything other than the piece I wanted to write soon after.

    After 18 intense months of negotiations, neither the Iranians nor the journalists covering these talk are ready to give up. At each meeting, there is a new trend in hashtags and today in Lausanne the most popular one is #NailTheDeal.

    'Nail the deal'

    The talks resumed on March 25 in Lausanne with the hope that the P5+1 foreign ministers would make the framework agreement official.

    According to the Iranian New Year calendar, the last and 13th day of the holidays known as Seezdah Bedar is when families must spend the day outdoors to prevent the malevolent number 13 from striking misfortune on their family. Seezdah Bedar literally means "13 outdoors".

    This year, Seezdah Bedar is on April 2, just two days after what should happen. If Iran and the US achieve the biggest step of the talks since the interim agreement of November 2013, then finally this dead-end can be broken for good, perhaps in time for Seezdah Bedar.

    One of the Iranian officials from the negotiating team stopped me with a smile in the hallway of the Beau-Rivage Hotel and half-jokingly asked me if my aunt had recently heard some news that they were not aware of.

    I smiled and replied: "She always hears what the whole nation wants to hear - please 'nail the deal!'"

    Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian journalist, TV commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - a Memoir of Iran.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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