Iran Postpones Nuclear Talks, Sets Conditions for Future Negotiations

Jul 1, 2010


By Sarah Bulley
Earlier this week, the Iranian government announced plans to postpone nuclear talks with the United States and other P5+1 powers until late August at the earliest. The move was announced in retaliation for a fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran and follow-on unilateral measures imposed by the U.S. and EU. The postponement will not affect discussions to implement a nuclear fuel swap, but only dialogue about Iran’s overall nuclear program, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tuesday. Today, Iran sent letters to 15 Security Council members saying that it was now “more determined” to continue the development of its atomic program.
On Monday, President Ahmadinejad announced Iran’s conditions for holding future talks. As reported by the AP:
The Iranian leader also set three conditions for an eventual resumption of talks, saying countries who want to participate should make clear whether they oppose Israel's purported atomic arsenal, whether they support the Nonproliferation Treaty and whether they want friendship or hostility toward Iran.
However, he said, participation in the talks was not contingent on the answers.
The conditions ask for interested parties to clarify their own priorities on issues that Iran deems important. In questioning whether or not the U.S. and other P5+1 states support Israel’s alleged arsenal will raise some diplomatic issues. To acknowledge support of Israel’s arsenal implies that it exists and could affect political relations in the Middle East. Efforts to create a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East are already hinged upon Israel’s acknowledgement of its arsenal.
The delay in talks imposed by Iran is intended to “punish” the United States for leading the effort to impose new sanctions on the Iranian regime, Ahmadinejad said. In addition to Great Britain and Israel, Iran considers the U.S. its “chief enemy.” Although other states have supported the sanctions measures, President Ahmadinejad believes their important economic ties with the United States determined their actions.
Do Iran’s statements offer any indication that it may return to the negotiating table in a couple of months? In addition to the “conditions” outlined by Ahmadinejad, he alluded to the possibility that the P5+1 powers (United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) should not be the only states involved. As quoted in the Tehran Times:
“Who has said that only the 5+1 must negotiate? There are others who must be present at the talks,” he stated.
This may be a reference to including Brazil and Turkey in any future negotiations. Their support of a last ditch effort at a fuel swap with Iran is currently stalled, but both countries did state their desire to avoid further sanctions against the Iranian regime and are attempting to hold talks. Iran continues to declare its ability to handle the “meaningless” sanctions without challenge.
This past weekend, Director of the CIA Leon Panetta spoke on ABC’s This Week about Iran’s nuclear weapons development. Dismissing a National Intelligence Estimate released in 2007, which stated that Iran had halted uranium enrichment in 2003, Panetta said that Iran currently has the technology and LEU necessary to build at least two nuclear warheads. If its efforts continue unchecked, Panetta said, Iran could construct a nuclear warhead within one year. The Guardian reported Iran’s dismissal of the DCI’s claims:
Separately, Iran's foreign ministry dismissed as "psychological warfare" an assessment by the CIA that the Islamic republic already has enough uranium to make two nuclear weapons. Ramin Mehmanparast, the ministry spokesman, called the comments by Leon Panetta, the CIA chief, "propaganda" intended to allow the US to avoid nuclear disarmament. "What Iran is pursuing is only in the framework of the rights that its membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency entitles it to," Mehmanparast said. "The real concern is disarmament and non-proliferation."
Today, Foreign Minister Mottaki wrote letters to all members of the UN Security Council, criticizing its action against Iran. In separate letters to Brazil and Turkey, the Minister thanked them for their votes against sanctions and for resisting the political pressures of the P5+1. Mottaki wrote that sanctions work against their desired outcome, to make a nation hold more staunchly to its views. As quoted by the INSA:
"[The] Tehran declaration had created a positive and constructive climate for talks and opened doors for cooperation, whereas the UN Security Council illogical measure showed the other parties are not enthusiastic about talks and interaction.
Amid continued allegations and accusations, Iran continues to place hope in achieving a fuel swap deal with Turkey and Brazil. Such a deal, it believes, will demonstrate its peaceful nuclear intentions, despite its admission of enriching uranium to 20 percent. However, Iran continues to criticize the P5+1 for wanting to engage in talks to determine its true nuclear ambitions. The U.S., which is pushing forward on unilateral sanctions against Iran, has already stated its displeasure for the “weak” agreement that would allow Iran too much room to continue its enrichment efforts domestically. Whether or not this renewed attempt at nuclear swap goes forward, the U.S. should look ahead to how it intends to negotiate with Iran come late August.