Talks Resume in Moscow
In what Reuters calls a “nervous atmosphere,” talks between the P5+1 and Iran resumed today in Moscow. A western diplomat said, “Ashton is willing to stay in Moscow as long as it takes,” although the climate inside the meetings was “tense and tough,” according to another unnamed Western source (Al-Monitor 6/18; Reuters 6/17).
Talks are set to resume Tuesday (Al-Monitor 6/18; Reuters 6/17). Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator, has said Iran’s right to enrichment should be “’recognized and respected,’” while Western concerns for Iran’s nuclear program have remained high (Reuters 6/17). According to an Iranian diplomat, Iranians had three priorities going into this morning’s meetings: to criticize western negotiators for refusing Iranian requests for a preparatory meeting before the Moscow talks, to give a detailed response to all the points in a confidence building proposal put forward by the P5+1 in Baghdad, and to give the P5+1 a more detailed run-through of its five-pont plan (Al-Monitor 6/18).
Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview ahead of talks in Moscow by saying: “’The problem is the following: If we would say only economic sanctions [will be imposed], then the Iranians will say OK, we will wait until it will be over. Now what the Americans and Europeans and Israelis are saying is if you won’t answer the economic challenge, all other options are on the table. It will not end there. Without that, there is no chance that the sanctions will [work]’” (Slate Magazine 6/15). When asked about his opinion of using military action against Iran, Peres emphasized the Iranians must see the threat of US military intervention as credible (Slate Magazine 6/15).
In response to Israeli concerns that the Iranians are merely buying time, an unnamed western official told The Guardian, “’The notion that Iran is playing for time and we’re playing for time is wrong. We have a sense of urgency. We’ve communicated this to the Iranians, and what we’re hoping is that their calculus will be affected by the bite of these sanctions’” (Huffington Post 6/17; The Guardian 6/17).
Ahmadinejad to Leave Politics
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said, ‘”Eight years are enough,’” and that he will be leaving politics at the end of his second term, which ends in 2013 (CNN 6/17). With Ahmadinejad’s exit from the political realm, the evident power struggle between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Iranian President appears to be decided (CNN 6/17). This announcement further confuses speculation about how much influence Ahmadinejad will have on any proposal (Reuters 6/18).
Alleged Secret Uranium Enrichment
The Institute for Science and International Security alleges Iran may be building a secret uranium enrichment site, although they don’t present any evidence and say such a plant wouldn’t be operational for at least a year (Bloomberg 6/15). Because Iran is capable, the report claims, of refining its stock of 19.75 percent uranium further, Iran could possess a nuclear weapon by the end of 2012 (Bloomberg 6/15). Although Iran claims their aims are only peaceful, Albright, ISIS president, and Walrond, claim, “’By any realistic analysis, Iran is making far more 19.75 percent uranium than it needs’” (Bloomberg 6/15).
The US has granted India a last minute waiver, exempting it from sanctions beginning July 1st for trading with Iran (Huffington Post 6/15). Iran is India’s land route to Afghanistan and other important markets, and India and Iran have agreed to utilize a payment mechanism in the Indian currency to avoid new EU sanctions (Huffington Post 6/15).
Drums of War
On Friday, 44 US Senators signed a letter to President Obama demanding that negotiations be abandoned without a shut down of the Fordo uranium enrichment facility, a freeze on all enrichment above 5 percent, and a shipment of all Iranian urnaium enriched above 5 percent out of the country (Foreign Policy 6/15).
William Kristol, founder of the Project for the New American Century and editor of The Weekly Standard, said “Instead of running away from it, administration officials could be putting the military option front and center” (The Weekley Standard 6/25). Kristol advocates Congress approve an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, even though the President hasn’t requested such authorization, to lend credibility to the threat of US military action against Iran (The Weekley Standard 6/25). Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has said that if elected president he would not need to seek congressional approval to strike Iran (The Atlantic 6/18).
Dennis Ross, who previously served as President Obama’s top Iran adviser on the National Security Council, has spoken out in favor of a “go big” approach which would see the US offering “Iran a civil nuclear power capability—and if they reject the proposal, it would be presented to the public as a declaration that the Iranians want a nuclear weapons capability not civil nuclear power” thereby justifying war (The New Republic 6/15).
In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Ray Takeyh, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, criticizes any inspection-s based solution to the nuclear standoff that allows for Iranian enrichment because “no monitoring measure can account for every container” (The Washington Post 6/15).
-“No hope for Moscow talks without reciprocity”
NIAC’s David Elliott and Roshan Alemi write in Foreign Policy that the Moscow talks will require a give and take to succeed:
Iran’s leaders may even consider escalation to be the safe bet. They surely know that the United States is reluctant to initiate a conflict that would make gas prices skyrocket, and unwilling to rally support behind the Iranian regime or endanger U.S. troops in the region. In addition, an attack would give Iran justification to kick out international inspectors and covertly develop a nuclear deterrent in such a way that would be extremely difficult to detect and stop without a ground invasion of a country three times larger than Iraq.
The United States and Europe have two options: they can simultaneously reduce the odds of war and of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons; buy time for diplomacy; help the global economy by relieving pressure on oil prices; and maintain leverage for future negotiations. Or they can further put the screws to Iran, and face the uncertain consequences of an escalating crisis that could end in a devastating war. Their choice will soon be clear.
Read the full piece at Foreign Policy
-“How Iran Can Help Diplomacy Succeed”
NIAC’s Reza Marashi writes in Huffington Post that if Iran wants talks to succeed, negotiators must enter bilateral talks with the U.S. in Moscow instead of continuing to repeat the mistake of turning down direct negotiations:
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Iranian and American officials must resume talks at that high level again — and about much more than Iran’s nuclear program. As Washington prepares for talks in Moscow, it should use the P5+1 mechanism to privately convey a key message to Tehran: Wendy Sherman looks forward to a 30-minute to one hour-long bilateral meeting with Saeed Jalili. This is non-negotiable, and she is prepared to listen to Iranian concerns on all issues. In the immediate round of talks following Moscow, Sherman is willing to explore areas for potential agreement and further discussion after reporting back to their respective capitals.
Few doubt the high degree of discipline in Iran’s diplomacy. But when that discipline represents a nervous diplomatic strategy with little creativity or ingenuity in style, it makes Iranian negotiators one-dimensional. Long gone are the days of former chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani — a tough advocate for Iran’s interests, but pragmatic enough to operate with eloquence and credibility in an effort to keep a modicum of cooperation alive.