A stronger Iran returns to nuclear talks in Geneva
Iran began talks Monday in Geneva with world powers eager to curb its expanded nuclear capabilities.
(Page 2 of 2)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
While Iran has experienced some technical problems – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that all of Iran's 8,426 centrifuges involved in low enrichment were idle in mid-November – it has also made progress in many areas.
"It's easy if you are sitting at the State Department to say: 'We're steamrolling these guys,' " says Ms. Barzashka. "But at the same time, Iran is pushing forward with 20 percent enrichment. They're pushing forward with their own fuel manufacture."
If reducing Iran's capacity to get a nuclear bomb was a concern, the delayed diplomacy and Iran's inability to secure 20 percent fuel from any other source "have so far given Iran a reason [to go] for higher enrichment, putting it closer to a bomb," she says.
"Sanctions don't push back the nuclear clock, but 20 percent enrichment actually pushes that [clock] forward," Barzashka adds. Iran has already produced about 33 kg of the higher-grade material; if it were able to get the fuel, it would have no reason to enrich to that level.
Iran denies that it is pursuing the bomb, and its top authorities state that Islam forbids nuclear weapons. Frequent inspections by the IAEA have not turned up diversion of any nuclear material, though the UN agency says Iran has not yet fully cooperated in clarifying past design issues.
The new task for negotiators will be creating confidence where little exists, and amid tense rhetoric. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina in November explicitly called for the military annihilation of Iran's regime, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the West of "thinking as aggressors," adding, "No embargoes can change the Iranian people."
Few analysts believe that sanctions, the default US policy toward Iran for decades, will change Tehran's nuclear calculus.
"If the US is serious [about] a diplomatic solution, it must recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium on its soil and accept Iran's indispensability for maintaining stability in the Persian Gulf," wrote Barzegar in the latest issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. "Iran, in turn, will reciprocate by agreeing to more rigorous inspections by the IAEA to [demonstrate] the peaceful nature of its nuclear program."
In addition, he told the Monitor that Iran's avowed willingness to stop 20 percent enrichment if the US shows goodwill underscores that nuclear talks need not be a zero-sum game in which only one country benefits.
"The nature of Iran's nuclear program is such that it directs Iran and the United States to either interact or engage in war," he says. "In other words, it is either a win-win game or a lose-lose game, and not a win-lose game."
IN PICTURES: Who has nukes?
Which way forward?
The diplomatic challenge is more daunting, now, after a 14-month hiatus from talks. Among the possible outcomes:
• Exchange: Iran agrees to swap home-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.
• Acceptance: World powers accept Iran's enrichment in exchange for stricter safeguards.
• Stasis: One or both sides raise accusations of high-handedness, and talks fail.