6 factors that will determine concessions from Iran

The question du jour and probably du year is whether war with Iran can be avoided. This lies in Iran’s hands. In recent talks with the West in Baghdad, Iran showed some greater flexibility about its nuclear program. But Iran has a history of trickery in the nuclear arena.

Whether Tehran will more seriously cooperate with Western demands depends largely on the following six factors – several of which may be difficult for the West to influence.

1. Get greater global unity on US-led sanctions

Hadi Mizban/AP
Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator Saeed Jalili, right, chats with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton in Baghdad May 23. Negotiators from the US and five other world powers tried to work through the impasse over Tehran's nuclear program. Op-ed contributor Steve Yetiv says: Whether Iran will more seriously cooperate with Western demands depends largely on six key factors.

Much greater global unity is needed to back US-led sanctions and give them the teeth they need to really compel Iran to drop its nuclear aspirations. At present, their impact on Iran’s calculations is unclear.

True, sanctions have gained greater support. European Union countries have agreed to halt oil imports from Iran by July 1. And Japan, South Korea, and Turkey may reduce their imports from Iran as well. However, China and India currently consume around 35 percent of Iran’s oil and appear reluctant to cut back. They may even buy more as other countries buy less and as they get better oil deals from Iran, which would undermine US-led sanctions to some degree.

Iran also consumes about 400,000 barrels per day of gasoline, and imports about 120,000 barrels per day. The imports come from many places, but China is an especially critical source. In January 2012, Washington sanctioned China’s state-run Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp., which it said was Iran’s largest gasoline supplier.

Sanctions may have put some pressure on Iran to come to the negotiating table, but much greater unity – especially from China and India – will be needed to help close the deal. Such changes are possible from most countries, but China and India will prove a huge challenge.

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