Iran sees nuclear talks leaning their way

2012-04-13 12:59

Dubai - Iran's envoys are heading for nuclear talks with confidence that the chips are falling their way.

It could be dismissed as just political theatrics for the world powers that Iran will face in Istanbul on Saturday.

After all, Iran has some serious matters on its plate: Tightening economic sanctions, near blacklist status from international banking networks and the threat that Israel or the US could eventually opt for a military strike against Tehran's nuclear programme.

But think like the Iranian leadership. The baseline objective is to keep the centrifuges spinning in its uranium enrichment sites. That now seems within reach - and the Islamic Republic could even try to leverage a few concessions from the West along the way.

That's because Iran has been very busy since the last attempts at negotiations nosedived more than a year ago with the same group: The five permanent UN Security Council members - the United States, France, China, Russia and Britain - plus Germany.

Iran is now churning out uranium at 20% enrichment at a regular pace. That level - compared to the 3.5% needed for Iran's lone Russian-built energy reactor - is necessary to make isotopes for cancer treatment and other medical and research applications.

Second enrichment site

But the US and allies fear that higher-level enrichment puts Iran significantly closer toward possibly making weapons-grade material - a goal that Iran repeatedly claims is not on its agenda.

Yet the 20% material offers other opportunities for Iran.

It could agree - without any direct pain to its nuclear programme - to Western demands to suspend the 20% production as an act of good faith that Iran would want reciprocated. Tehran could then ask 'how about easing some of the sanctions?'

Iran also has started operations at a second enrichment site, buried deep into a mountainside south of Tehran to protect against air attacks.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the new facility, known as Fordo, must be closed and on Thursday she called on Iran use the Istanbul talks to credibly address concern about its nuclear programme.

Again, Iran could entertain the idea of closing Fordo without any real setbacks to its overall uranium enrichment. The far bigger labs at Natanz, in central Iran, provide almost all of Iran's nuclear fuel.

West outmanoeuvred

Other demands and counterproposals are likely to be raised in Istanbul. They include what to do about Iran's stockpile of 20% enriched uranium and access for future inspections by the UN's nuclear watchdog agency.

But what's not there is perhaps the most significant. The West - at least at this stage - no longer calls for an all-out halt to uranium enrichment as it did last year.

If this path stays, Iran can boast about outmanoeuvring the Western demands and keeping the heart of the nuclear programme intact.

The US and others will then have to sell this outcome to the Israelis. The pitch is that trying to whittle down Iran's enrichment capabilities and stockpiles - coupled perhaps with stricter inspections - is a more prudent route than launching attacks and possibly opening up another Middle East war.

"We're not going to prejudge these talks before they start, but the context going in is important," White House spokesperson Tommy Vietor said.

Vietor said the rest of the world is more united than ever in opposition to an Iranian nuclear bomb, and noted that Iran is facing the toughest sanctions yet as a consequence of its nuclear programme.


Some advance lobbying may already be under way. In an interview aired on Sunday by CNN, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak appeared to focus on gaining outside control of the uranium stockpiles rather than trying to push Iran to give up its ability to make nuclear fuel - something that Iranian officials have said is nonnegotiable.

Uranium enrichment, in fact, has been wrapped tightly around the powerful themes of patriotism, scientific achievements and international justice by Iran's leadership.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called it the "locomotive" for all other high-profile programmes, such as Iran's aerospace and biotech efforts.

Enrichment is permitted under the UN's treaty overseeing the spread of nuclear technology and the West's attempts to shut it down brought a predictable outcry over perceived bullying.

It's never said directly in Iran, but two scenarios are always background noise in Iran's nuclear considerations.

Libya is the cautionary tale. Muammar Gaddafi's decision to abandon his nuclear programme is seen as weakening his bargaining power and opening his regime to Nato attacks and its eventual downfall last year.

Links to attacks

Pakistan tells another story to the Iranian leaders. Its development of nuclear arms is seen as sharply boosting Islamabad's international standing and respect.

During a ceremony in February to put the first domestically made fuel rod's in Tehran's research reactor, Ahmadinejad spoke on national television next to photos of five nuclear scientists and researchers killed since 2010 as part of a suspected shadow war with Israel.

Iranians also are linked to recent attacks and plots against Israeli officials and others in Bangkok, New Delhi and elsewhere.

Although Ahmadinejad does much of the political grandstanding for Iran's nuclear programme, he has little to say about any potential deals with world powers. Those big decisions rest with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei has two main talking points recently: Repeating that Iran will never consider giving up uranium enrichment, but claiming there is no intention to seek nuclear arms - even calling them against Islamic principles.

Khamenei has ever been much for bold policy gestures or initiatives toward the West, preferring to stick closely to Iran's narrative that Western culture is morally bankrupt and on the decline. But he's also not seen as inflexible.

The signals from the top in Iran in recent days appear to acknowledge that some movement is needed on the nuclear impasse. But if Iran has its way, the talks will be drawn out and incremental. This week in Istanbul is likely just the opening bid.

Iran is already proposing the venue for round two: Baghdad.

  • Fidel - 2012-04-13 13:15

    "Iran is now churning out uranium at 20% enrichment at a regular pace. That level - compared to the 3.5% needed for Iran's lone Russian-built energy reactor - is necessary to make isotopes for cancer treatment and other medical and research applications." Under NPT Iran has every right to enrich uranium up to that level. . The NPT states that any country can develop its own nuclear industry for peaceful purposes, i.e. nuclear power generation. The NPT also requires that states with atomic weapons must move towards the removal of these weapons in order to achieve a world free of nuclear bombs.

      Oom - 2012-04-13 16:31

      Yes indeed every country has the right to, but is Iran's aim really peacefull? Why do they prevent Atomic Agency inspectors from visiting certian sites? Given the fact they the are sponsors of terrorim, I would think that their intentions are for all but peace.

      Boom - 2012-04-13 17:43

      Fidel don't you have a life? You are obsessed. I feel sorry for you.

      Fred - 2012-04-13 18:11

      Because contrary to your delusional beliefs, Israel is not the aggressor and a threat to world peace. The UNELECTED dictators of the region are. Israel is attacked almost daily by these regimes who also openly threaten it's existence and deny the occurrence of the Holocaust, the single biggest attempt at human genocide in the history of humankind: six million Jewish people exterminated.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-13 18:52

      Although I have tears in my eyes, of how gooooood Iran is, with its cancer research, and allllll this other medical stuff, they should flatten their nuclear facilities. A country that exports terrorism, has NO RIGHT whatsoever to have anything even remotely close, that could make a nuclear bomb. And if there are those that think it is unfair; They can take a hike .....!!!!!!

      Fidel - 2012-04-13 20:16

      @Boom You have the temerity of an imbecile when all you can do is penned one or two sentences of insult. P.S. I think you'll find insults work best after you've supplied some argument.

      Fidel - 2012-04-13 20:35

      The very best that can be said of these confusing attempts to claim that an actual Israeli bomb is an instrument of peace and joy for all, whereas a putative Iranian bomb is reason enough for World War III, is that they are no more nonsensical than the similar 'arguments' to this effect we have seen so many times before.

      Fred - 2012-04-14 00:08

      Patrick, absolutely, and it is not. What's more is the strongest powers on Earth are backing her against the outright aggression of the oppressive Iranian and Syrian regimes. The other dictatorships have been removed from power. :)

      Fred - 2012-04-14 02:17

      That is, removed from power by their own people, who finally became tired of the lies and manipulations. The same is likely to happen in Syria and Iran.

  • Koos - 2012-04-13 13:34

    The ussual drivel from Infidel.

      Fidel - 2012-04-13 14:05

      Trolling is ultimately pointless and a waste of your time.

      Jerzy - 2012-04-13 14:51

      I think you meant "usual". I thought his post was quite informative, and also provides us with the stipulations of the non proliferation treaty.

  • Jaba - 2012-04-13 14:51

    "chips are falling their way." haha The residual radiation hazard from a nuclear explosion is called Fallout... this being the only thing that will be "falling their way" if they continue on their road of mass destruction. However, the funniest part is their cancer research BS. Iran will give our world Cancer not heal it.

  • aiazmir - 2012-04-13 18:11

    I find this all amusing and disturbing at the same time. The "posturing" by the USA is clearly aimed at increasing the price of oil. In other words, in order to buy oil, you first have to buy dollars to pay for the oil. If you increase the price of oil, you create a bigger demand for petro-dollars. Creating sanctions against Iran also destabilises its relationship with Israel. How clever the US are at manipulating.

      Fred - 2012-04-13 18:35

      It's exactly the opposite of what you say. Notwithstanding the considerable recession in the US, it is risking higher oil and petrol prices to ensure that the rogue Iranian regime, distinct from the Iranian people, do not get nuclear weapons. This regime is the biggest finder of international terrorism, supports the stoning to death of women, openly threatens to destroy Israel, denies the occurrence of the Holocaust which was thd biggest attempt at human genocide in the history of humankind, and adjusts elections to hold onto power. Why would you want to see the picture upside down, as you are? Doesn't make sense, and is less than you can be.

  • pages:
  • 1