Last updated: 17 September, 2014

Iranians back nuclear deal but fear tough demands

As Iran and world powers prepare to resume nuclear talks, a new poll Wednesday revealed most Iranians back a deal but consider unacceptable some of the toughest demands to rein in their atomic program.

About 94 percent of Iranians said their country needed a nuclear energy program and seven in ten insisted that it was for peaceful purposes only.

While 79 percent of those surveyed said they would back a deal which even included Iranian assurances never to produce an atomic bomb, a large majority admitted demands such as dismantling half of Iran’s centrifuges and limiting nuclear research would be unacceptable.

The poll carried out by the University of Tehran Center for Public Opinion Research and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland interviewed 1,037 Iranians by telephone between July 11 and 17.

“While the Iranian public is ready to accept taking some confidence building steps, there are obviously some clear limits,” said Ebrahim Mohseni, a senior analyst at the University of Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “is likely to face a political backlash if he goes farther than the public is ready to support,” he warned.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) return to the negotiating table on Thursday with Iran in New York, seeking to scale back its nuclear activities to ensure it cannot make a swift dash to produce a bomb.

In return Tehran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, wants UN and Western sanctions lifted, and is pushing for the right to enrich uranium, a process which can produce material for a bomb.

The poll also revealed deep Iranian skepticism that the West will keep promises to lift the US-led sanctions on Iran, which have crippled its economy.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said they believed the US would find some other excuse to impose sanctions, fearing the United States is out to dominate Iran or block its development.

Such concerns could be fueled by legislation proposed in the US Congress which would impose even tougher sanctions if the talks fail by a November 24 deadline, the poll said.

“Iranians are divided about the likelihood of success in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. A large majority say they would not fault Iranian officials if the talks fail,” the poll said.