Iran nuclear talks a ´complete failure,´ says Iranian diplomat (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) By Scott Peterson BAGHDAD, IRAQ 05/25/12)
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Both sides spoke of ´some common ground´ that will drive the next
round of Iran nuclear talks set for mid-June in Moscow. Yet a chasm
of mismatched expectations widened in Baghdad.
After two days of withering and sometimes combative nuclear talks,
Iran and six world powers put a positive spin on the outcome.
Both Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers spoke of "some
common ground" most importantly a willingness by Iran to address
its sensitive 20 percent uranium enrichment program, which is
technically not far from weapons grade that will drive the next
round of talks set for mid-June in Moscow.
Yet even the official statements pointed toward a chasm of mismatched
expectations that has only widened in Baghdad, in Iran´s view at
The setback risks future deadlock that could trigger another Mideast
war: Israel has threatened military strikes against Iran´s nuclear
program, if it is not verifiably limited to peaceful purposes.
"I think it was a complete failure, in terms of content," says an
Iranian diplomat inside the talks, who spoke on condition of
"The more they talk, the worse it gets," said the diplomat about one
of the final sessions. "The atmosphere is like Baghdad´s weather," a
reference to the sandstorm that swept across the Iraqi capital
yesterday, closing the airport.
Western demands too far beyond Iran´s red lines
Behind the scenes, diplomats from all sides say the P5+1´s initial
demands were so far beyond Iran´s oft-stated red lines requiring a
halt to all uranium enrichment including the lowest levels, for
example, and shutting down Iran´s deeply buried, UN-inspected
enrichment site at Fordow that Iran barely mentioned its top
priority of relief from crippling sanctions, aware that it would get
The disconnect was so severe that negotiators spent much of the
unplanned second day of talks trying to craft a statement acceptable
Indeed, Catherine Ashton, the European foreign policy chief leading
talks for the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France
and Germany), in the statement described "very intense" discussions,
and noted that "significant differences remain."
Likewise, Saeed Jalili, Iran´s chief negotiator and secretary of its
Supreme National Security Council, told a press conference
that "talks were intensive and long," and "left unfinished."
Iranian flexibility on its 20 percent enriched uranium would depend
on the P5+1 recognizing what Iran considers its "undeniable right" to
enrich uranium, Mr. Jalili said.
That was not part of the P5+1 offer put forward in the first session
in Baghdad. A senior US official said after the talks that
recognizing such a right is "obviously not something we are prepared
Iran would not bow to pressure, from sanctions or negotiators, Jalili
told the Monitor in an interview after the talks.
He said the goodwill created since the first round in April, which
broke a 15-month diplomatic dry spell, has been jeopardized
by "approaches that were really destructive" a reference to a
unanimous Senate vote on Monday to tighten sanctions, and a late-
April executive order signed by President Obama to target cyber
oppressors in Iran (and Syria)."To form this pathway to cooperation,
they should avoid wrong attitude[s] and a destructive strategy" of
more sanctions, Jalili told the Monitor. The two-track strategy led
by the US and Europe grates on Iran as "illogically" seeking to both
engage Iran while increasing pressure to compel Iranian compliance.
"The pressure strategy is over; it is outdated," said Jalili. "We
think there are bases for cooperation, and we can find those bases of
The senior American official, however, said the sanctions including
tougher measures like a European oil embargo coming into effect by
July 1 are key because they "increase leverage" of the P5+1 and
signaled they could be ratcheted up further. "Maximum pressure is not
yet being felt in Iran," the official added.
Iranians: Package unbalanced, influenced by Israel
Those steps designed to put pressure on Tehran were portrayed in Iran
as proof that the US was not serious about talking.
Iranian officials and media presented the P5+1 proposal as
unbalanced, and pointed out that the most egregious demands, in their
view that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, and shut down Fordow
were mirrored those voiced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu of Israel.
Israel is the only nation in the Middle East with a nuclear arsenal,
but it is not subject to UN inspection, nor is it a signatory like
Iran of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Its leadership calls
Iran´s program an "existential threat" that must be eliminated.
"I would have expected nothing but the Iranians to say that the
[P5+1] package was unbalanced," the senior US official said
earlier. "This is a negotiation: We each want to get the most and
give the least. That´s how negotiations begin."
UN resolutions require Iran to suspend enrichment
Iran is required by a number of UN Security Council resolutions to
suspend all enrichment, until it clears up questions about possible
But with 9,000 centrifuges installed in Iran and a growing stockpile
of low-enriched uranium, many experts believe that demanding full
stoppage is a deal breaker. Iran´s supreme religious leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei who will make any final decision on P5+1 deal says
nuclear weapons are a "sin" and unIslamic, and officials insist they
only want a civilian nuclear program for energy and medical research.
At the Baghdad talks this week, Iran presented its own
counterproposals, which included non-nuclear issues such as civil
unrest in Syria and Bahrain, and even counter-narcotics.
But it was the "illogic" of the dual-track position that the Iranian
team considers a "miscalculation" that will hinder progress, says the
"Jalili told the [P5+1]: ´You are repeating the same mistakes,´" said
the Iranian diplomat. "He believes these [added pressures] are
destructive to the talks, and should be stopped."
Iranian negotiator to Shiite shrines; US negotiator to Israel
The final statement in Baghdad reaffirmed the magic words from the
Istanbul meeting that talks would be based on a "step by step
approach and reciprocity."
Yet while the Iranians say they expected simultaneous steps of equal
value, the other side made clear it expected Iran to take critical
steps for some incentives, but with easing of sanctions only a
The original draft made no mention of Iran´s right to enrich.
"They provided a draft, wishing that they include only the 20
percent," says the Iranian diplomat. It "was furiously responded to
by Jalili, [who said] if they read this statement [publicly], we´re
going to state that the whole story was a failure, a fiasco, and he
was completely angry."´
After a P5+1 huddle, another plenary session was agreed. When the
talks finally ended after dark yesterday, Ms. Ashton spoke to the
press for less than eight minutes, before most of the P5+1
delegations raced for the airport.
Within hours, Jalili and the Iranian team were driving south toward
the Shiite holy shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf. Jalili had also
visited a Baghdad shrine twice this week to pray.
And today, the top American negotiator, US Undersecretary of State
for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, traveled to Israel, to reassure
the Jewish state that its security was a top US concern. (© The
Christian Science Monitor. 05/25/12)
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