Is There Any Hope for Iran Nuclear Talks?

Negotiators from the U.S., the UN, and Iran sit down Monday in Geneva

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Iran today begins negotiations with the United Nations' Security Council member-states, sometimes called P5+1, over the country's nuclear program. The talks, held in Geneva, will touch of several nuclear issues: Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, its alleged quest for weapons-grade uranium, and the Tehran Nuclear Reactor. The medical reactor requires nuclear fuel that is stronger than low-enriched uranium but not strong enough for a bomb. The talks pick up from May, when a proposed fuel-swap deal fell through and was followed by harsh international sanctions. We earlier explored why Iran is likely returning to the table. Here's what people are saying in advance of this week's talks.

  • Clinton: Could Work if Sanctions Are Hitting Hard  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin: "If they're having difficulties, maybe they'll be more responsive, but we won't know until we test it. ... I don't think they ever believed that we could put together the international coalition we did for sanctions. ... And from all that we hear from people in this region and beyond, they're worried about the impact. And so they're returning to Geneva and we hope they are returning to negotiate."
  • How To Tell If We're Succeeding  Nuclear proliferation experts Ivanka Barzashka and Ivan Oelrich write in The Atlantic that the issue to watch is Iran's request for nuclear fuel for the Tehran nuclear reactor. They call this "a surrogate measure of Iran's good intentions. If successful, the TRR deal could serve as a segue to broader engagement. ... Though a successful deal on the TRR wouldn't solve the global concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions, it would be a significant--and necessary--first step."
The resumption of talks with Iran after more than a year is unlikely to mean that Iran is now ready to negotiate a suspension of its enrichment activities as demanded by the Security Council. ... It might therefore see the talks as an opportunity to restate its position. At the same time it usually wants to show some flexibility on secondary issues, like the supply of fuel for its research reactor which produces medical isotopes. But at the moment there is stalemate all round.
The Obama administration and European officials have said expectations are low for the new round of nuclear talks, which are expected to last two days. 'It's mostly a get-to-know-you,' one diplomat said. Diplomats suggested a positive outcome of the two days of planned meetings between the so-called P5+1 group--the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany--and Iran would be agreement for the parties to meet again.
  • How Iran Abuses Negotiations  Ray Takeyh writes in the L.A. Times that "the Islamic Republic's diplomacy is a delicate balancing act between competing and contradictory objectives. The regime's regional ambitions require nuclear weapons, and yet its predicament necessitates nuclear negotiations." Thus, he predicts, "to manage this paradox, Iran will seek a protracted diplomatic process that may involve some modest concessions but avoids a larger nuclear settlement. Indeed, Tehran's principal motivation for participating in the talks has little to do with its nuclear file and much to do with its desire to fracture international unity, relieve financial distress and, most important, gain a free hand in suppressing its opposition 'green movement."
  • Don't Negotiate With Iran  The Weekly Standard's Reuel Marc Gerecht says that the cache of Iran-related cables released by Wikileaks "allows us to appreciate how hard it is for Westerners to deal with faithful Muslims who see a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. ... President Obama has not yet publicly abandoned diplomacy with the Islamic Republic. ... Washington's Iran policy has now moved irreversibly in favor of economic coercion as the principal means to induce a change of behavior in Tehran." Yet, Gerecht continues, "if the Obama administration and the Europeans actually understood the opposing side, they would realize the sanctions now on the books are not nearly enough to make Khamenei blink." He urges the U.S. seek "defeat" of Iran.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.