Iran nuclear talks: To keep global support, US must seize diplomatic opportunities
Talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Istanbul April 14 show that negotiations aimed at addressing Tehran's nuclear ambitions appear to be on track. Diplomatic momentum should quell loose talk about the 'military option.' The top priority now must be to halt Iran's uranium enrichment.
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Further transparency measures would reduce the risk of clandestine nuclear work outside of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities. Those facilities include its uranium enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, as well as a heavy water reactor now being built near Arak that could be used to produce plutonium for bombs.Skip to next paragraph
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The IAEA and Iran have been haggling over the IAEA’s plan to address these issues in recent weeks, with Iran seeking limits on access. It is past time for Iran’s supreme leader and his team to provide the transparency necessary to ensure that his religious fatwa against nuclear weapons is genuine.
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If these and other confidence building steps are taken, the international negotiators could offer to delay the imposition of a European oil embargo, due to begin in July.
In contrast to the last round of talks held 15 months ago, the more serious Iranian approach at the recent talks is a result of the international sanctions and diplomatic pressure on Iran, which is now at an all-time high. As a result, both sides are coming forward with more pragmatic proposals.
The new momentum for diplomacy should quell loose talk about the so-called military option, which would be ineffective and counterproductive. Air strikes on Iran’s facilities would set back Iran’s program for no more than a couple of years, convince its leaders to pursue nuclear weapons openly, and lead to adverse economic and security consequences.
Nevertheless, some cynics and critics of the diplomatic option will undoubtedly complain that further negotiations with Iran only allow Iran to ‘buy time’ for nefarious nuclear pursuits. Such thinking is illogical and dangerous.
The reality is that international and national sanctions will remain in place until Iran takes the steps necessary to provide confidence it is not pursuing nuclear weapons. And if Washington and its negotiation partners do not seize the potential diplomatic opportunities, the international support necessary to maintain pressure on Iran will erode.
Resolving the nuclear issue will require sufficient pressure and inducements to convince Iran’s current and future leaders they stand to gain more from forgoing nuclear weapons than from any decision to build them. Much more needs to be done, but serious, sustained diplomacy remains the best option on the table.
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