Showing posts tagged as "Tehran"

Showing posts tagged Tehran

29 Aug
"Iran should accept more quantitative constraints on the number of its centrifuges and postpone plans for industrial-scale enrichment. In return, the P5+1 should accept the continuation of qualitative growth of Tehran’s enrichment capacity through research and development."

—From Crisis Group’s latest briefing: Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”

27 Aug
Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”
Istanbul/Tehran/Washington/Brussels  |   27 Aug 2014
November’s deadline could be the last chance to avoid a breakdown in the Iran and the P5+1 nuclear talks. Compromise on Iran’s enrichment capacity is key to ending the impasse, requiring both sides to walk back from maximalist positions and focus on realistic solutions. 
Despite significant headway in negotiations over the past six months, Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., UK, Russia, China, France and Germany) remain far apart on fundamental issues. In its latest briefing, Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”, the International Crisis Group argues that both sides have forgotten the lessons that brought them this far. They have wrongly assumed that desperation for a deal would soften their rival’s bottom line and compel it to ignore its domestic political constraints. The result is a dangerous game of brinkmanship that, if continued, will yield only failure. Though there is little room for error and no time to waste, a workable compromise is still possible. Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”, Crisis Group’s latest briefing, building on the 40-point plan for a nuclear accord it detailed in May, explores a half year of talks, investigates the new realities facing negotiators and offers an innovative way out of the impasse.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
Iran and the P5+1 should find common ground by reverse-engineering political concerns underlying their technical differences. For Iran, this means a meaningful enrichment program; continued scientific advancement; and tangible sanctions relief. For the P5+1, this requires a firewall between Iran’s civilian and potential military nuclear capabilities; ironclad monitoring mechanisms; and sufficient time and cooperation to build trust.
Iran should accept more quantitative constraints on the number of its centrifuges and postpone plans for industrial-scale enrichment. In return, the P5+1 should accept the continuation of qualitative growth of Tehran’s enrichment capacity through research and development.
Iran should commit to using Russian-supplied nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor for its entire lifetime, in return for stronger Russian guarantees of supply and enhanced P5+1 nuclear cooperation, especially on nuclear fuel fabrication. This would gradually prepare Tehran to assume responsibility for a possible additional plant, or plants, by the end of the agreement, in eleven to sixteen years.
An accord should be based on realistic, substantive milestones such as the time the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) needs to investigate Iran’s past nuclear activities ­ to determine the duration of the final agreement’s several phases rather than subjective ones dictated by political calendars.
“Neither side’s arguments bear scrutiny in the debate over the number of centrifuges, because the roots of their differences are fundamentally political”, says Ali Vaez, Iran Senior Analyst. “Negotiators are both driven and constrained by their respective domestic politics, especially the U.S. and Iran, where powerful constituencies remain skeptical of the negotiations and have the leverage to derail them”.
“The moment of truth for Iran and the P5+1 has arrived. Should it be lost, it is unlikely to soon reappear”, says Robert Blecher, Acting Middle East Program Director. “The parties could allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good and watch the best opportunity to resolve this crisis devolve into a mutually harmful spiral of escalation. Or they could choose wisely”.
FULL REPORT

Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”

Istanbul/Tehran/Washington/Brussels  |   27 Aug 2014

November’s deadline could be the last chance to avoid a breakdown in the Iran and the P5+1 nuclear talks. Compromise on Iran’s enrichment capacity is key to ending the impasse, requiring both sides to walk back from maximalist positions and focus on realistic solutions. 

Despite significant headway in negotiations over the past six months, Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., UK, Russia, China, France and Germany) remain far apart on fundamental issues. In its latest briefing, Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”, the International Crisis Group argues that both sides have forgotten the lessons that brought them this far. They have wrongly assumed that desperation for a deal would soften their rival’s bottom line and compel it to ignore its domestic political constraints. The result is a dangerous game of brinkmanship that, if continued, will yield only failure. Though there is little room for error and no time to waste, a workable compromise is still possible. Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”, Crisis Group’s latest briefing, building on the 40-point plan for a nuclear accord it detailed in May, explores a half year of talks, investigates the new realities facing negotiators and offers an innovative way out of the impasse.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • Iran and the P5+1 should find common ground by reverse-engineering political concerns underlying their technical differences. For Iran, this means a meaningful enrichment program; continued scientific advancement; and tangible sanctions relief. For the P5+1, this requires a firewall between Iran’s civilian and potential military nuclear capabilities; ironclad monitoring mechanisms; and sufficient time and cooperation to build trust.
  • Iran should accept more quantitative constraints on the number of its centrifuges and postpone plans for industrial-scale enrichment. In return, the P5+1 should accept the continuation of qualitative growth of Tehran’s enrichment capacity through research and development.
  • Iran should commit to using Russian-supplied nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor for its entire lifetime, in return for stronger Russian guarantees of supply and enhanced P5+1 nuclear cooperation, especially on nuclear fuel fabrication. This would gradually prepare Tehran to assume responsibility for a possible additional plant, or plants, by the end of the agreement, in eleven to sixteen years.
  • An accord should be based on realistic, substantive milestones such as the time the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) needs to investigate Iran’s past nuclear activities ­ to determine the duration of the final agreement’s several phases rather than subjective ones dictated by political calendars.

“Neither side’s arguments bear scrutiny in the debate over the number of centrifuges, because the roots of their differences are fundamentally political”, says Ali Vaez, Iran Senior Analyst. “Negotiators are both driven and constrained by their respective domestic politics, especially the U.S. and Iran, where powerful constituencies remain skeptical of the negotiations and have the leverage to derail them”.

“The moment of truth for Iran and the P5+1 has arrived. Should it be lost, it is unlikely to soon reappear”, says Robert Blecher, Acting Middle East Program Director. “The parties could allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good and watch the best opportunity to resolve this crisis devolve into a mutually harmful spiral of escalation. Or they could choose wisely”.

FULL REPORT

"Negotiators first should address the crucial issue of defining Iran’s enrichment capacity. Removing that obstacle would constitute real progress and, in so doing, increase the costs of ultimate failure; further, it could give the negotiators an incentive to compromise on other issues of more recent vintage, such as concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program."

—From Crisis Group’s latest briefing: Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”

6 Aug
Iran Sanctions: Which way out? | Ali Vaez
The United States has imposed several layers of sanctions against Iran—for widely diverse reasons—dating back to the 1979 revolution. Tehran now wants relief from sanctions as part of any diplomatic deal on its controversial nuclear program. But lifting sanctions is often harder than imposing them—and varies depending on the issues, origins and methods imposed.
FULL ARTICLE (USIP) 
Photo:  · · · — — — · · ·/Flickr

Iran Sanctions: Which way out? | Ali Vaez

The United States has imposed several layers of sanctions against Iran—for widely diverse reasons—dating back to the 1979 revolution. Tehran now wants relief from sanctions as part of any diplomatic deal on its controversial nuclear program. But lifting sanctions is often harder than imposing them—and varies depending on the issues, origins and methods imposed.

FULL ARTICLE (USIP) 

Photo:  · · · — — — · · ·/Flickr

16 Jul
US must not miss new opportunity to engage with Iran
by Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst
Squandering any opportunity for détente has been the norm in US-Iran relations during the past three decades. Iranians missed a major opening when President Obama came to power in 2009. Americans – especially as they meet with their allies in Brussels today to discuss next steps in nuclear negotiations with Tehran – should avoid a redux with Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani.
FULL ARTICLE (Christian Science Monitor)
Photo: Mojtaba Salimi / Wikimedia Commons

US must not miss new opportunity to engage with Iran

by Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst

Squandering any opportunity for détente has been the norm in US-Iran relations during the past three decades. Iranians missed a major opening when President Obama came to power in 2009. Americans – especially as they meet with their allies in Brussels today to discuss next steps in nuclear negotiations with Tehran – should avoid a redux with Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani.

FULL ARTICLE (Christian Science Monitor)

Photo: Mojtaba Salimi / Wikimedia Commons

25 Jun
Time Ripe for Iran Reset | CNN
By Ali Vaez, Crisis Group’s Senior Iran Analyst
The history of Iran-U.S. relations is littered with missed opportunities. The Obama administration should make sure that the victory of a moderate president in Iran doesn’t become another one.
Sending a letter of congratulation to the new president on his inauguration day – August 3 – would be a positive first step. Conservatives in Tehran will have to bite their tongues, remembering Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s congratulatory note to Obama in 2009. Republicans in the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, will have a hard time accusing the president of somehow endorsing Iran’s faulty electoral process, given that most U.S. allies in that region don’t even hold elections.
But more important than recognizing the legitimacy of a political process in which well over half of Iran’s population participated is signaling to Iran’s leadership that Washington is willing to find some sort of common ground moving forward. This could, for example, include reversing the U.S. objection to Iran attending the Geneva 2 conference on the future of Syria, a move that could be justified by Tehran’s new political face.
FULL ARTICLE (CNN)
Photo: kamshots/Flickr

Time Ripe for Iran Reset | CNN

By Ali Vaez, Crisis Group’s Senior Iran Analyst

The history of Iran-U.S. relations is littered with missed opportunities. The Obama administration should make sure that the victory of a moderate president in Iran doesn’t become another one.

Sending a letter of congratulation to the new president on his inauguration day – August 3 – would be a positive first step. Conservatives in Tehran will have to bite their tongues, remembering Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s congratulatory note to Obama in 2009. Republicans in the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, will have a hard time accusing the president of somehow endorsing Iran’s faulty electoral process, given that most U.S. allies in that region don’t even hold elections.

But more important than recognizing the legitimacy of a political process in which well over half of Iran’s population participated is signaling to Iran’s leadership that Washington is willing to find some sort of common ground moving forward. This could, for example, include reversing the U.S. objection to Iran attending the Geneva 2 conference on the future of Syria, a move that could be justified by Tehran’s new political face.

FULL ARTICLE (CNN)

Photo: kamshots/Flickr

22 Jun
Comment | Iran’s Nuclear Calculus | PBS Frontline
By Ali Vaez
Tehran’s nuclear calculus has fluctuated significantly since negotiations between Iran and the world powers resumed in April. Iran first appeared eager for a deal that could check the damaging momentum of sanctions and avert a war. The run-up to the Istanbul meeting was marked by positive signs, ranging from Ayatollah Khamenei’s rare praise of President Obama’s defense of diplomacy and the reiteration of his nuclear fatwa, to Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s constructive commentary in the Washington Post indicating commitment to diplomacy, and the conciliatory remarks by Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, on halting high-level enrichment. At the same time, Iran’s confidence was bolstered by its recent advances in nuclear technology and the completion of the underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow.
In the wake of the Istanbul meeting, and despite its concentration on generalities, the mood in Tehran became Pollyannaish. The West’s renewed interest in diplomacy, based on a step-by-step reciprocal process, was interpreted as a sign of weakness — a desperate attempt to tame oil prices and avert a military confrontation ahead of the U.S. presidential election and amid an unprecedented economic crisis in Europe. Tehran consequently orchestrated a messaging campaign to up the ante in Baghdad by simultaneously demanding the removal of sanctions and conditioning the public for a compromise.
Seemingly based on this calculation, in the second meeting with members of the P5+1, Iran presented a five-point strategy that included both nuclear and nonnuclear matters. But the Western response poured cold water on the expectations of Iranian negotiators. In mirror image, the West had equated Iran’s willingness to resume talks with its eagerness to delay further sanctions and avert an Israeli military attack. Perceiving signs of Iranian weakness, the West had no intention to relax or postpone sanctions on Iran’s oil sector and central bank short of a major concession by Tehran. The Iranians realized that they had erred in insisting on easing the sanctions and reverted to more familiar hardline posturing, evidenced by their foot-dragging on efforts to resolve outstanding problems with the International Atomic Energy Agency and an acerbic squabble with European negotiators vis-à-vis preparatory talks.
In Moscow, Iranian negotiators stood firm, counting on their Russian allies to persuade the rest of the P5+1 to show more flexibility. Nevertheless, intent on not being seen as stalling, Iran prepared a comprehensive response to further underscore its position and respond to the P5+1’s demands. Their proactive media campaign in Moscow, especially Deputy Negotiator Ali Bagheri’s press briefing, was testament to this strategy.
Iran and the P5+1’s diplomatic roller coaster hit bottom in Moscow, yielding nothing more than a follow-on technical meeting. But the prospect of achieving a breakthrough was as illusory as a breakdown could have been perilous. Rather than more brinkmanship based on mismatched expectations and misguided convictions, both sides should embrace intensive, continuous, technical-level negotiations to achieve a limited agreement on Iran’s 20 percent enrichment.
FULL COMMENT (PBS)
Photo: Mohammad Hassanzadeh/ FARS News Agency

Comment | Iran’s Nuclear Calculus | PBS Frontline

By Ali Vaez

Tehran’s nuclear calculus has fluctuated significantly since negotiations between Iran and the world powers resumed in April. Iran first appeared eager for a deal that could check the damaging momentum of sanctions and avert a war. The run-up to the Istanbul meeting was marked by positive signs, ranging from Ayatollah Khamenei’s rare praise of President Obama’s defense of diplomacy and the reiteration of his nuclear fatwa, to Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s constructive commentary in the Washington Post indicating commitment to diplomacy, and the conciliatory remarks by Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, on halting high-level enrichment. At the same time, Iran’s confidence was bolstered by its recent advances in nuclear technology and the completion of the underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow.

In the wake of the Istanbul meeting, and despite its concentration on generalities, the mood in Tehran became Pollyannaish. The West’s renewed interest in diplomacy, based on a step-by-step reciprocal process, was interpreted as a sign of weakness — a desperate attempt to tame oil prices and avert a military confrontation ahead of the U.S. presidential election and amid an unprecedented economic crisis in Europe. Tehran consequently orchestrated a messaging campaign to up the ante in Baghdad by simultaneously demanding the removal of sanctions and conditioning the public for a compromise.

Seemingly based on this calculation, in the second meeting with members of the P5+1, Iran presented a five-point strategy that included both nuclear and nonnuclear matters. But the Western response poured cold water on the expectations of Iranian negotiators. In mirror image, the West had equated Iran’s willingness to resume talks with its eagerness to delay further sanctions and avert an Israeli military attack. Perceiving signs of Iranian weakness, the West had no intention to relax or postpone sanctions on Iran’s oil sector and central bank short of a major concession by Tehran. The Iranians realized that they had erred in insisting on easing the sanctions and reverted to more familiar hardline posturing, evidenced by their foot-dragging on efforts to resolve outstanding problems with the International Atomic Energy Agency and an acerbic squabble with European negotiators vis-à-vis preparatory talks.

In Moscow, Iranian negotiators stood firm, counting on their Russian allies to persuade the rest of the P5+1 to show more flexibility. Nevertheless, intent on not being seen as stalling, Iran prepared a comprehensive response to further underscore its position and respond to the P5+1’s demands. Their proactive media campaign in Moscow, especially Deputy Negotiator Ali Bagheri’s press briefing, was testament to this strategy.

Iran and the P5+1’s diplomatic roller coaster hit bottom in Moscow, yielding nothing more than a follow-on technical meeting. But the prospect of achieving a breakthrough was as illusory as a breakdown could have been perilous. Rather than more brinkmanship based on mismatched expectations and misguided convictions, both sides should embrace intensive, continuous, technical-level negotiations to achieve a limited agreement on Iran’s 20 percent enrichment.

FULL COMMENT (PBS)

Photo: Mohammad Hassanzadeh/ FARS News Agency

15 Jun
The P5+1, Iran and the Perils of Nuclear Brinkmanship
Washington/Vienna/Brussels | 15 June 2012
The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West have had their share of dashed expectations, but even by this peculiar standard, the recent diplomatic roller coaster stands out. Brimming with hope in Istanbul, negotiators crashed to earth in Baghdad, a few weeks later. That was not unexpected, given inflated hopes, mismatched expectations and – most hurtful – conviction on both sides that they had the upper hand. But if negotiations collapse now, it is hard to know what comes next. Washington and Brussels seem to count on sanctions taking their toll and forcing Iran to compromise. Tehran appears to bank on a re-elected President Obama displaying more flexibility and an economically incapacitated Europe baulking at sanctions that could boomerang. Neither is likely; instead, with prospects for a deal fading, Israeli pressure for a military option may intensify. Rather than more brinkmanship, Iran and the P5+1 (UN Security Council permanent members and Germany) should agree on intensive, continuous, technical-level negotiations to achieve a limited agreement on Iran’s 20 per cent enrichment.
The optimism that greeted the Istanbul talks largely was illusory. Success was measured against a remarkably negative starting point – the absence of talks for the preceding fifteen months and a series of escalatory steps by all sides in the interim. The discussions themselves were largely devoid of polemics, but they also were largely devoid of substance. All were on their best behaviour because, tactically, all shared a common goal: to gain time and avoid a crisis that could lead to an Israeli military strike, risk further instability in the region, send oil prices soaring and thus complicate both Europe’s recovery and Obama’s re-election.
The problem is that the West and Iran interpreted the positive atmosphere differently. Officials from Europe and the U.S. were persuaded that Tehran’s agreement to come to the table and its non-belligerency once there stemmed principally from two realities: the devastating impact of sanctions that already have been imposed on the Iranian economy and the even more devastating impact of those that are soon to come on the one hand; and Israeli military threats on the other. The Islamic Republic also felt that it was in the driver’s seat, having strengthened its position over the preceding year by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, enriching at higher levels and completing its work on the underground nuclear facility at Fordow. With both feeling relatively strong, neither was in a mood to give in.
The two sides’ intensive efforts to increase their leverage had another paradoxical effect. The U.S. and European Union (EU) built a remarkable – and, not long ago, unthinkable – coalition of countries willing to punish Iran by hitting where it hurts most, the oil sector. To agree to any sanctions relief is made all the more difficult by the considerable effort and political capital invested in achieving them and by the knowledge that the first sign of rollback could prompt a far more comprehensive unravelling of the sanctions regime. In like manner, Iran paid a huge price for its decision to enrich at 20 per cent and forge ahead at Fordow – becoming the target of unprecedented economic penalties and losing vast amounts of money. Any retreat on these matters would have to be accompanied by momentous Western concessions lest the entire enterprise appear to be what many suspect it to be: a political and economic folly. The ironic end result is this: having accumulated precious assets that bolstered their hand in negotiations, both parties are now loathe to use the leverage they sacrificed so much to acquire.
Many predict that the current diplomatic process soon will come to a halt, with the expectation it will resume in the future. But time could be short. If negotiations collapse, precedent teaches that reciprocal escalatory steps are likely and that the hiatus will last longer than anticipated. Meanwhile, Israel – together with some influential U.S. politicians – will look at the clock ticking and Iran continuing to bolster its stockpile of enriched uranium. The clock metaphor is false – Iran is years away from acquiring a bomb, and the U.S. and Israel will have ample means, Fordow notwithstanding, to halt its nuclear program if they so choose – and one of the most damaging political images in recent history. But no matter. Senior Israeli officials believe it, and if they are persuaded that Iran is playing for time and Western nations are too spineless to do anything about it, they might act or convince Washington to act. The period until the U.S. November election is arguably the most perilous of all.
All this argues for a change in thinking. The Moscow meeting on 18 June should be used an opportunity to do just that. To begin:
instead of periodic, one- or two-day high-level, higher-stakes meetings, Iran and the P5+1 should agree on uninterrupted talks at a somewhat lower level for several months;
moreover, both sides need to drop some of their demands: there will not be significant sanctions relief at this stage, and it is equally unlikely that Iran will shut down Fordow – the only installation it possesses that could resist an Israeli strike.
Instead:
Iran should be prepared to put on the table items that would seriously and realistically address the P5+1’s proliferation concerns: suspending its enrichment at 20 per cent; converting its entire stockpile of 20 per cent uranium hexafluoride into uranium dioxide pellets to be used for nuclear fuel fabrication; and freezing the installation of new centrifuges at Fordow, while agreeing to use the facility for research and development purposes alone and accepting more intrusive monitoring;
the P5+1 should be willing to put on the table items that genuinely address Iranian concerns: accepting up-front the principle that Iran can enrich on its soil subject, until Tehran clarifies matters with the IAEA, to limitations on the level of purity and number of facilities; investing in a new research reactor and cutting-edge technologies related to renewable energies in Iran; and extending some form of sanctions relief, including one or more of the following: refraining from additional sanctions, postponing for a specified period entry into force of (or, if already in force, suspending) the EU oil embargo and/or ban on insurance for ship owners transporting Iranian oil; and easing pressure on Iran’s remaining oil customers.
The talks could well fail, and then the goal will be to avert all kinds of destructive steps, including military confrontation, the most destructive of all. But, before reaching that phase, there is much work to do to see if a deal can be reached and if what little optimism is left over from Istanbul can still be salvaged.
FULL REPORT

Photo: kamshots/ Flickr

The P5+1, Iran and the Perils of Nuclear Brinkmanship

Washington/Vienna/Brussels | 15 June 2012

The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West have had their share of dashed expectations, but even by this peculiar standard, the recent diplomatic roller coaster stands out. Brimming with hope in Istanbul, negotiators crashed to earth in Baghdad, a few weeks later. That was not unexpected, given inflated hopes, mismatched expectations and – most hurtful – conviction on both sides that they had the upper hand. But if negotiations collapse now, it is hard to know what comes next. Washington and Brussels seem to count on sanctions taking their toll and forcing Iran to compromise. Tehran appears to bank on a re-elected President Obama displaying more flexibility and an economically incapacitated Europe baulking at sanctions that could boomerang. Neither is likely; instead, with prospects for a deal fading, Israeli pressure for a military option may intensify. Rather than more brinkmanship, Iran and the P5+1 (UN Security Council permanent members and Germany) should agree on intensive, continuous, technical-level negotiations to achieve a limited agreement on Iran’s 20 per cent enrichment.

The optimism that greeted the Istanbul talks largely was illusory. Success was measured against a remarkably negative starting point – the absence of talks for the preceding fifteen months and a series of escalatory steps by all sides in the interim. The discussions themselves were largely devoid of polemics, but they also were largely devoid of substance. All were on their best behaviour because, tactically, all shared a common goal: to gain time and avoid a crisis that could lead to an Israeli military strike, risk further instability in the region, send oil prices soaring and thus complicate both Europe’s recovery and Obama’s re-election.

The problem is that the West and Iran interpreted the positive atmosphere differently. Officials from Europe and the U.S. were persuaded that Tehran’s agreement to come to the table and its non-belligerency once there stemmed principally from two realities: the devastating impact of sanctions that already have been imposed on the Iranian economy and the even more devastating impact of those that are soon to come on the one hand; and Israeli military threats on the other. The Islamic Republic also felt that it was in the driver’s seat, having strengthened its position over the preceding year by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, enriching at higher levels and completing its work on the underground nuclear facility at Fordow. With both feeling relatively strong, neither was in a mood to give in.

The two sides’ intensive efforts to increase their leverage had another paradoxical effect. The U.S. and European Union (EU) built a remarkable – and, not long ago, unthinkable – coalition of countries willing to punish Iran by hitting where it hurts most, the oil sector. To agree to any sanctions relief is made all the more difficult by the considerable effort and political capital invested in achieving them and by the knowledge that the first sign of rollback could prompt a far more comprehensive unravelling of the sanctions regime. In like manner, Iran paid a huge price for its decision to enrich at 20 per cent and forge ahead at Fordow – becoming the target of unprecedented economic penalties and losing vast amounts of money. Any retreat on these matters would have to be accompanied by momentous Western concessions lest the entire enterprise appear to be what many suspect it to be: a political and economic folly. The ironic end result is this: having accumulated precious assets that bolstered their hand in negotiations, both parties are now loathe to use the leverage they sacrificed so much to acquire.

Many predict that the current diplomatic process soon will come to a halt, with the expectation it will resume in the future. But time could be short. If negotiations collapse, precedent teaches that reciprocal escalatory steps are likely and that the hiatus will last longer than anticipated. Meanwhile, Israel – together with some influential U.S. politicians – will look at the clock ticking and Iran continuing to bolster its stockpile of enriched uranium. The clock metaphor is false – Iran is years away from acquiring a bomb, and the U.S. and Israel will have ample means, Fordow notwithstanding, to halt its nuclear program if they so choose – and one of the most damaging political images in recent history. But no matter. Senior Israeli officials believe it, and if they are persuaded that Iran is playing for time and Western nations are too spineless to do anything about it, they might act or convince Washington to act. The period until the U.S. November election is arguably the most perilous of all.

All this argues for a change in thinking. The Moscow meeting on 18 June should be used an opportunity to do just that. To begin:

  • instead of periodic, one- or two-day high-level, higher-stakes meetings, Iran and the P5+1 should agree on uninterrupted talks at a somewhat lower level for several months;
  • moreover, both sides need to drop some of their demands: there will not be significant sanctions relief at this stage, and it is equally unlikely that Iran will shut down Fordow – the only installation it possesses that could resist an Israeli strike.

Instead:

  • Iran should be prepared to put on the table items that would seriously and realistically address the P5+1’s proliferation concerns: suspending its enrichment at 20 per cent; converting its entire stockpile of 20 per cent uranium hexafluoride into uranium dioxide pellets to be used for nuclear fuel fabrication; and freezing the installation of new centrifuges at Fordow, while agreeing to use the facility for research and development purposes alone and accepting more intrusive monitoring;
  • the P5+1 should be willing to put on the table items that genuinely address Iranian concerns: accepting up-front the principle that Iran can enrich on its soil subject, until Tehran clarifies matters with the IAEA, to limitations on the level of purity and number of facilities; investing in a new research reactor and cutting-edge technologies related to renewable energies in Iran; and extending some form of sanctions relief, including one or more of the following: refraining from additional sanctions, postponing for a specified period entry into force of (or, if already in force, suspending) the EU oil embargo and/or ban on insurance for ship owners transporting Iranian oil; and easing pressure on Iran’s remaining oil customers.

The talks could well fail, and then the goal will be to avert all kinds of destructive steps, including military confrontation, the most destructive of all. But, before reaching that phase, there is much work to do to see if a deal can be reached and if what little optimism is left over from Istanbul can still be salvaged.

Photo: kamshots/ Flickr

25 May
Iran, big powers agree to hold more nuclear talks in June | Reuters
By Andrew Quinn and Justyna Pawlak
Iran and world powers agreed to meet again in Moscow next month for more talks to try to end the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme, but there was scant progress to resolve the main sticking points between the two sides.
At the heart of the dispute is Iran’s insistence that it has the right to enrich uranium and that economic sanctions should be lifted before it stops activities that could lead to its achieving the capability to make nuclear weapons.
Western powers insist Tehran must first shut down enrichment activities before sanctions can be eased.
But both sides have powerful reasons not to abandon diplomacy. The powers want to avert the danger of a new Middle East war raised by Israeli threats to bomb Iran, while Tehran also wants to avoid a looming Western ban on its oil exports.
After discussions in Baghdad extended late into an unscheduled second day on Thursday between envoys from Iran and the six powers, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was clear both sides wanted progress and had some common ground, but significant differences remained.
"We will maintain intensive contacts with our Iranian counterparts to prepare a further meeting in Moscow," she told a news conference in Baghdad.
The next meeting, the third in the latest round of talks that began in Istanbul last month, will be held in Moscow on June 18-19.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Freddy Moris/Wikimedia Commons

Iran, big powers agree to hold more nuclear talks in June | Reuters

By Andrew Quinn and Justyna Pawlak

Iran and world powers agreed to meet again in Moscow next month for more talks to try to end the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme, but there was scant progress to resolve the main sticking points between the two sides.

At the heart of the dispute is Iran’s insistence that it has the right to enrich uranium and that economic sanctions should be lifted before it stops activities that could lead to its achieving the capability to make nuclear weapons.

Western powers insist Tehran must first shut down enrichment activities before sanctions can be eased.

But both sides have powerful reasons not to abandon diplomacy. The powers want to avert the danger of a new Middle East war raised by Israeli threats to bomb Iran, while Tehran also wants to avoid a looming Western ban on its oil exports.

After discussions in Baghdad extended late into an unscheduled second day on Thursday between envoys from Iran and the six powers, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was clear both sides wanted progress and had some common ground, but significant differences remained.

"We will maintain intensive contacts with our Iranian counterparts to prepare a further meeting in Moscow," she told a news conference in Baghdad.

The next meeting, the third in the latest round of talks that began in Istanbul last month, will be held in Moscow on June 18-19.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: Freddy Moris/Wikimedia Commons