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Iran nuclear talks: Why the trust gap is so great

Part of the reason for Iran's distrust lies in the CIA's infiltration of a UN weapons inspection team in Iraq in the 1990s.

By Staff writer / April 12, 2012

This January 2011 file photo shows Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak, 150 miles southwest of Tehran. Success with Iran nuclear talks this weekend in Istanbul with world powers will depend on bridging a trust gap that has widened since the last round of talks failed 15 months ago.

Hamid Foroutan/ISNA/AP/File

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Istanbul, Turkey

Any "success" in new nuclear talks between Iran and world powers will depend on bridging a trust gap that has widened since the last round of talks failed 15 months ago.

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In that time, Iran has advanced its uranium enrichment expertise and material stockpiles, and not resolved questions about possible past nuclear weapons-related efforts.

Though Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declares that having nuclear weapons is a "sin," and vows that the Islamic Republic will never pursue them, the US and some other nations demand incontrovertible proof.

But Iran also has reasons for mistrust, as it sits down in Istanbul on April 14 with the so-called P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany), represented by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The Islamic Republic has been targeted by an escalating covert war, widely attributed to the United States and Israel and their proxies. That war has included the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, the Stuxnet computer virus, American CIA spy drone flights deep into Iranian airspace, and a host of unexplained explosions and acts of espionage.

"I think [Iran] has reason to be suspicious," says Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish former director of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in Iraq in the 1990s. "The Iranians don't trust the other side at all. When these killings are taking place ... they have all the more reason to be angry and upset; it's cruel [killing] scientists going to their job."

Iranian officials say that nuclear inspectors of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have contributed to that toll, whether they are aware of it or not. They accuse the IAEA of breaking its own rules, by exposing secret information gleaned during inspections that, they charge, has been grist for hostile intelligence agencies seeking regime change in Iran.

"This has been proven to Iranians," says Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team who is now at Princeton University in New Jersey.

"There is a consensus within Iran that more access [with the IAEA], more cooperation, [means] more assassinations, more sabotage," says Mr. Mousavian. "Which means there is a great, great mistrust from the Iranian point of view to the real intention of the IAEA. They are really concerned that the IAEA has been used as an instrument for espionage, sabotage, covert action and preparing the ground for a military strike."

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