Another Round of Iran Talks Coming Up – Maybe
The P5+1 and Iran have been discussing the another round of talks. A date was set for this week, but Iran won’t settle on a venue. For a while, Istanbul seemed to have been agreed on, but last week, Iran wanted to change to Cairo.
Speculation is that Iran wants to know what the P5+1 will offer in this round of negotiations. Iran has made its offer known. The author of that article, Mahdi Mohammedi, has been one of Iran’s top strategists on the negotiations.
In past talks, Iran has made its proposals and those of the P5+1 public. This is an unfortunate way to conduct negotiations. It invites others into the negotiation and hardens positions on both sides, since neither wants to be seen as backing down.
Here is Iran’s latest offer from Mohammedi’s article:
The Islamic Republic has already explained general conditions of a possible deal to the other side. The two sides, according to Tehran, should first address each other’s concerns. The United States should, thus, recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium and Iran, in return, will announce that it has no plan to build nuclear weapons. In the next stage, the US and the European Union should remove all unilateral sanctions against Iran and Iran, for its part, will take immediate steps to address the remaining concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which the Western countries claim to be very important. In fact, a new round of IAEA's inspections of and access to Iran's nuclear sites will begin. In the third stage, Iran will be ready to negotiate about 20-percent enrichment provided that the United Nations Security Council will annul all its sanctions resolutions against Tehran. Iran plan also contains the fourth and fifth steps which should be taken by the two sides in order to promote cooperation on nuclear and non-nuclear issues. The main goal of these steps is also to build confidence and prepare suitable grounds for further cooperation between the two sides.
Iran’s desire to know the P5+1 offer before negotiations begin may indicate a need to prepare their positions before the talks begin. If so, this indicates a lack of flexibility that makes negotiations almost impossible. The P5+1, which requires agreement among six nations, may also suffer from a lack of flexibility.
The P5+1, in past talks, has offered a minuscule opening into discussing sanctions relief: opening up the market for airplane parts, which Iran needs badly. An Iranian response in the top-level talks might be that they would like to discuss the offer on airplane parts and possibly more. They would have to add in an offer of their own, perhaps say that they are willing to discuss the conditions of their 20% enrichment. The two sides would then agree to form expert groups to work out the details and agree on a schedule for developing a proposal.
The heavy lifting of working out international agreements is done in expert groups, away from publicity. This allows a freer discussion of possible ways forward.
In the past week, a report surfaced that a large explosion had taken place at Iran’s Fordow enrichment plant. The source was highly unreliable, but the story developed legs. I’ve collected relevant links in a forum thread. Reuters reports that they can’t verify the story. Other supposed confirmations are weak.
Here’s an article about Reza Kahlili, since the Haaretz article in that thread has gone behind a paywall. He seems to have had some connection with the CIA, but many of his claims are not believable. “They [Iran] have missiles they have not publicly shown”? How did they test them?
He says that the CIA “should help Iranians free themselves of this evil regime.”
So did he release this story with the intention of disrupting the talks? Did it come from Israeli intelligence? One of the Israeli sources implicates the US in the alleged explosion. I’m into my own speculation here. It could be that Kahlili is simply a publicity hound. But this kind of uproar can’t have a good effect on the talks.