TEHRAN, IRAN. The start of a second round of Vienna nuclear negotiations is set for March 17, 2014. The end of 2013 brought unexpected positive news coming from Geneva. An interim agreement between Iran and six world powers (the permanent UN Security Council members and Germany) had been agreed upon, which consisted of a partial rollback of Iran’s controversial nuclear program over a six months’ period, in exchange for the easing of some of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran and financial assistance. At the same time, last month’s Vienna negotiations ended with the identification of issues to be further addressed in order to reach a comprehensive final agreement.

The departure of Ahmadinejad from the Iranian presidential office upon the election of the new president Hassan Rouhani and the breakthrough in Geneva generally regarded as a progress in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. It resulted in cautious optimism with members of the international community. However, it is still early to argue that Iran’s isolation era is coming to an end. Particularly, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is his speech at the UN General Assembly described President Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and a politician who is more dangerous than his predecessor is; he later rejected the Geneva deal calling it a historic mistake. Ali Khamenei, the supreme Leader of Iran, in turn, neither fully embraced nor opposed the talks.

To a certain extent, the normalization of relation with the West was not a voluntary step for the Iranian newly elected authority. The UN, US and EU sanctions against Iran were an unbearable burden for the Iranian economy. Rising prices and inflation created a deterioration of living standard and a real risk of social unrest. For Rouhani, the lifting or at the least a significant easing of sanctions was a matter of political survival.

However, it is an open question whether new Iranian leader considers “reconciliation” with the West as a general political course or as a (temporary) emergency measure. Moreover, it is yet unknown how far he is willing to go in the “thawing and warming” line and how far he is allowed to implement it. After all, the President of Iran is not head of the state and can act only within the terms set by Supreme leader and Islamic clerics. Up to the moment, Rouhani has secured the backing of senior conservative clerics against hardliners opposed to a nuclear deal and last January Iran announced a halt to the high-end uranium enrichment activities. The supreme power, Ayatollah Khamenei, so far passively backed up Rouhani’s pursuit of moderate foreign policy. However, this support whither away as soon if Rouhani goes beyond with making “concessions” to the international community.

The moderate approach of Rouhani towards a “nuclear deal” withdrew some trump cards for Israel to justify military attack. At present, staging a military attack against Iran would have an extremely negative impact on international politics and the image of Israel. After the conclusion of an agreement in Geneva, no great power will support attacks directed against Tehran. Netanyahu’s government however seems not to fully comprehend the current state of affairs and might still dare to commit such a desperate and yet pointless step.

The fruits of Rouhani’s moderate stance are still to be awaited. It is true that USA lifted sanctions against Iran’s state broadcasting company. Nevertheless, more recently Washington announced a “black list” of companies that violated the existing sanctions against Iran, continuously complicating international business opportunities for Iran. Furthermore, in an interview with CNN, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, warned global business from excessive optimism about the opening of the Iranian market. The Head of the Department of State said that the sanctions against Iran are still in force, and if Tehran violates the agreements concluded in Geneva, new restrictions will be imposed. One should not forget that the same agreement in Tehran and Washington is read and interpreted differently.

It seems clear that the West expects more ambitious steps from Rouhani. Whether the Supreme Leader of Iran is ready for that as well, is an open question. The latest statement of Khamenei has been that the U.S. would not hesitate to overthrow the regime in Iran, if it could. This once again shows how strong the lack of trust remains between both states. Therefore, the Vienna second round of talks is destined to be one stop of many on a long and bumpy road.