Iran says it's ready to restart nuclear talks with the European Union next month after more than a year of diplomatic stalemate, Stephen Castle reports for The New York Times. But whether the negotiations will be any more successful than last year's is uncertain. Though both sides have publicly declared their willingness to resume talks, Iran could be stalling for time as it makes more enriched uranium, putting it closer to the ability to make a bomb. And the U.S. wants to punish Iran for its delay, offering even tougher conditions than were proposed last year.
Many are crediting a new round of tougher sanctions for Iran's sudden readiness to talk. Washington now wants Iran to export 4,400 pounds of low enriched uranium--much more than it demanded last year--in exchange for fuel for its research reactor. In addition, Western powers want the country stop enriching uranium to 20 percent. Iran wants a statement on Israel's semi-secret nuclear weapons, a demand unlikely to be met. Iran says it'd like to start talks after November 10 in Geneva.
- Iran Could Be Coming Around, Swampland's Joe Klein says. Tehran's agreement to talks in Europe follows its increased seriousness about keeping Afghanistan stable. "The Obama response to these initiatives has been tough-minded and correct: Along with the other members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, the Administration is preparing a more demanding nuclear fuel swap proposal--to reflect the past year's uranium enrichment in Iran. As always, the Iranians may be stalling for time. But this time the world has made clear that the mere willingness to talk is insufficient."
- Hard-Line Leaders Make for Tougher Negotiations, The Christian Science Monitor cautions. Will this round of talks go any better than last year's failed negotiations? New tougher sanctions could be a game-changer. "The international vise on the regime is squeezing an already troubled economy burdened by inflation and severe unemployment. Tehran is being forced to cut back popular – but expensive – subsidies that help its citizens afford food and fuel. ... Iran’s rulers haven’t been this hard-line since the 1980s. And the harder the line, the more one might expect Iran’s theocrats to react to this year’s sanctions like, say, the rulers of North Korea or Burma – that is, to be impervious to them."
- Just Shut Up About the Military Option, Marc Lynch pleads at Foreign Policy. These talks "will hopefully become the basis for an ongoing diplomatic process, where a range of issues can be explored, alternative arrangements proposed, and confidence built. But it's a very bad sign that, according to the New York Times, the lack of progress in talks thus far has "prompted a discussion inside the White House about whether it would be helpful, or counterproductive, to have him [President Obama] talk more openly about military options," Lynch writes. "The greatest danger of introducing open war talk by the administration is that it would represent the next step in the 'ratcheting' -- which I've been warning of for months -- and pave the way either to a 1990's Iraq scenario or to an actual war. Once the military option is on the table, it never goes away. The only way to signal 'toughness' in future encounters will be to somehow escalate beyond military threats -- i.e. to commit action, such as airstrikes or cruise missiles. And those would, by the consensus of virtually every serious analyst, be a catastrophe. If the United States isn't prepared to follow through on the threat -- and it really, really shouldn't be -- then it shouldn't make the threat. That would just either undermine credibility, or else give a hook for hawks to demand that actions live up to rhetoric. Dangerous either way. "
- How Effective Are the New Sanctions? Time's Vivienne Walt asks. "Tougher U.S. and European sanctions against Iran might be hitting its economy, with fears of looming inflation and cuts in food and gas subsidies. But that doesn't mean the Islamic Republic is out of friends; far from it. Even the U.S.'s close allies in Europe have stopped short of cutting their relations with Iran, allowing it to continue its trade in oil and gas. And on Iran's other flank, it is cementing alliances with Asian countries, which are eager to build links with one of the world's biggest oil producers and are angling to snap up contracts abandoned by departing Western companies," Walt reports. "European politicians believe that the U.S. has strong-armed them into following Washington's demands on Iran." And, "as some countries and companies withdraw from trading with Iran, others look set to benefit from the sanctions. China, a permanent member of the Security Council, agreed to vote for new U.N. sanctions only after being assured that its own extensive investments in Iran would not be touched."
- No More Macho Posturing, Please, writes Ted Galen at The National Interest. Offering Iran even tougher conditions those Ayatollah Ali Kamanei rejected a year ago "is a curious negotiating strategy if the goal is truly to strike a deal on the nuclear issue," Galen writes. "There are two possible explanations for this puzzling stance. One is that U.S. and European Union officials are not sincere about wanting a negotiated settlement and are instead perfectly willing to see tensions escalate. The second possibility is that Western policymakers are extremely confident that the latest round of multilateral economic sanctions is beginning to bite, and that the Iranian regime will, sooner or later, have to capitulate. ... If the former explanation is true, the conduct of Washington and its allies is both reprehensible and dangerous. ... If the latter explanation is true, Western negotiators may be overestimating—perhaps wildly overestimating—the impact of the latest round of sanctions. The new penalties are clearly causing more problems for Iran than previous rounds, but that is a rather low bar to clear." The State Department must offer "concessions and compromise," he argues, and not its "version of macho posturing."
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