Despite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks about a turn towards “cooperation” with the West about its nuclear program, Iran seems to have once again managed to stall the process. Reports have been varied in their interpretation of Iran’s response to the nuclear deal drafted two weeks ago with the IAEA.
The IAEA reported that Iran gave an “initial response.” The New York Times reported Iran refused the deal, “according to diplomats in Europe and American officials briefed on Iran’s response.”
A senior European official characterized the Iranian response as “basically a refusal.” The Iranians, he said, want to keep all of their lightly enriched uranium in the country until receiving fuel bought from the West for the reactor in Tehran.
“The key issue is that Iran does not agree to export its lightly enriched uranium,” the official said. “That’s not a minor detail. That’s the whole point of the deal.”
AFP reported that Iran’s state IRNA news agency said Iran wants more talks on procuring nuclear fuel for its Tehran reactor before it would give a final reply on the nuclear deal at hand.
Regardless, this is the second week after the deal was drafted. One deadline has passed, which we must keep in mind was only a couple of days after the deal was proposed. Today the Iranian government seems to have managed not to ink a deal while keeping talks afloat. (Literally. Iran’s response to the IAEA was reportedly not even written down…) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier that she wants to “let the process play out.”
“We are working to determine exactly what they are willing to do, whether this was an initial response that is an end response or whether it’s the beginning of getting to where we expect them to end up,” Agence France-Presse quoted her as saying.
Analysts and officials did not expect this process of negotiating with Iran to be quick and easy, and so far it has been frustrating. Expectations have fluctuated during these ongoing talks about what sort of progress can/will be made on the nuclear issue. Iranian officials are going to have to start showing what compromise they are willing to make, not on their rights to a civilian nuclear program, but yes, compromise in the form of security assurances and some form of confidence building. Engaging the international community with this nuclear deal would not diminish Iran’s prestige or its standing in the world; but the Iranian government is certainly under mounting pressure whether it chooses to acknowledge it or not. Further, both sides cannot endlessly withhold some compromise with the other side in these negotiations because of mistrust.
Again, we must bear in mind these talks only began at the start of October, certainly not enough to call it a day on unprecedented negotiations. NSN sums this up neatly in their piece: “Diplomacy a Process, Not a One-Shot Deal”
Even if this nuclear deal had already been accepted by Iran, that would only be a part of a broader set of arrangements that need to be made in the long term–agreements for robust transparency and monitoring, for one thing–not the end game. The process should not be derailed by the difficulties of achieving progress on this first step of what will be an ongoing, long-term commitment for all parties to the negotiations.