Iran nuclear talks in Geneva: What is Tehran's strategy?
At a midday break, diplomats said the tone has been "civil" but a US official says Iran's delegation lacks the 'cohesion and confidence' to make a deal.
(Page 3 of 3)
"I do think the Americans are willing [to] accept some enrichment – not a [complete] rollback – in exchange for very intrusive inspections," says Mr. Chubin, author of "Iran's Nuclear Ambitions." "But I don't think the Iranians will accept very intrusive inspections. They don't want to be singled out."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The US side may offer "little bits of candy," says the US official, such as upgrading an underutilized research reactor built decades ago in Tehran. That upgrade would provide the kind of medical isotopes that Iran says it plans to supply itself by building a heavy water reactor at Arak – which will produce plutonium that could also be used to speed any weapons effort.
More broadly, the US side is uncertain whether meaningful progress can be made with the current Iranian government.
"We're not back explicitly at regime change," says this official. "But incrementally there is agreement, a [growing] realization within the administration that this is not a regime that can make the compromises we want them to make."
In fact, the Obama administration has been widely reported in the past week to have stepped up its examination of various sanctions options. US officials in Washington have begun to speak of the president's outreach efforts in the past tense.
Iran wants the UN Security Council to repeal three layers of modest sanctions – resolutions that require it to suspend enrichment activities – and to have its nuclear portfolio withdrawn from the Council and returned to the exclusive purview of the IAEA. But the newly declared enrichment facility, which raises the possibility of other undeclared sites, has deepened mistrust.
Cracks of light began to appear in the Iranian position this week, as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki suggested that Iran was open to "technical" talk. He traveled to Washington – the first visit of any senior Iranian official for 30 years – to inspect the Iran interest section run by the Pakistan Embassy, but met no US officials ahead of the Geneva talks.
"I think we're not going to get any substantive discussions," says Chubin, noting that Iran may simply say inspectors are welcome at the second enrichment site, dug into a mountain south of Tehran near the religious center of Qom.
"I don't see them making the kind of intelligent compromises in which they would keep their program, if they have nothing to hide, in exchange for confidence-building measures for the international community," says Chubin. "I don't think they feel they have to."
Tehran argues that it was only required to declare the second enrichment facility to the IAEA six months before it introduced nuclear material, and because the site was far from complete, they had gone out of their way to declare the site one year earlier than necessary. Iranian officials have said repeatedly that they are in complete compliance with the rule of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Ahmadinejad has declared the IAEA's years-long investigation of Iran to be "closed."