Iran offers nuclear talks. Why the West may prefer to wait.
While the West is insisting Iran demonstrate its seriousness this time, experts do expect a new round of nuclear talks. Some say starting them too soon could send the wrong message.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s lukewarm declaration Thursday that Iran is ready to return to international talks on its nuclear program – albeit on its terms – is all part of a diplomatic chess game that most Iran experts and Western officials assume will lead to the resumption of talks at some point in the coming weeks.Skip to next paragraph
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What those officials and experts seem much less confident about is that those discussions, whenever they occur, will produce the results necessary to head off an eventual military attack on Iranian nuclear and related installations, for example: strict limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment, greater access for international inspectors to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and access in particular to its newly operational underground facility near Qom.
Public grandstanding over the talks suggests both sides are positioning for advantage. The Iranians want to appear reasonable and open to meeting with world powers – the talks would be held with the so-called P5+1 group, the UN Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany – while also standing firm on what it considers its “right” to enrich uranium for what it insists are purely peaceful civilian reasons.
But Western powers, led by the United States and the European Union (France, Britain, and Germany) – are taking the “fool me once” approach to Iran and insisting that Tehran must demonstrate its seriousness about talks by, for example, agreeing to suspend its enrichment activities while talks go on.
Iran has used negotiations in the past to buy time for advancing its nuclear program, and Western countries are adamant that this time things must be different. As one senior Western diplomat in Washington said recently, “The Iranians’ actions totally contradict their nice words” about a willingness to return to the negotiating table.
“It’s nice to come back [to the table] to have a nice lunch,” the diplomat continued, “but nothing they do suggests they are serious.”