|

Iran sees nuke talks leaning their way

BY GUEST OPINION | APRIL 16, 2012 6:30 AM

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

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 United States could eventually opt for a military strike against Tehran's nuclear program.

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 nose-dived more than a year ago with the same group: the five permanent U.N. Security Council members — the United States, France, China, Russia, and Britain — plus Germany.

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

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

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the new facility, known as Fordo, must be closed, and on April 12, she called on Iran to use the Istanbul talks to credibly address concern about its nuclear program.

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.

If this path stays, Iran can boast about outmaneuvering the Western demands and keeping the heart of the nuclear program intact. The United States 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 spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

He 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 program.

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 programs, such as Iran's aerospace and biotech efforts. Enrichment is permitted under the U.N.'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.

During a ceremony in February to put the first domestically made fuel rods 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.
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hosseini 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.

Brian Murphy
Associated Press


In today's issue:


comments powered by Disqus



 
Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.