The PJ Tatler

Iran Nuke Deal: U.S. Says the Two Sides Are Closer but Iran Denies It

How badly do you think the Obama administration wants an “historic” deal with Iran? So bad that they’re willing to see things that aren’t there.

Diplomats told the AP that the two sides have tentatively agreed to a formula that would send excess enriched uranium from Iran to Russia for disposal. This is a proposal that’s been floated for years and Iran has continually rejected it.

Also, the diplomats say that the two sides agreed on a framework to identify which issues there is general agreement on and outlining different approaches to the remaining issues.

The diplomats said differences still dominate ahead of the next round of Iran-six power talks on Jan. 15 in Geneva. But they suggested that even agreement to create a to-do list would have been difficult previously because of wide gaps between the sides.

Iran denies it wants nuclear arms, but it is negotiating with the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany on cuts to its atomic program in hope of ending crippling sanctions. The talks have been extended twice due to stubborn disagreements.

The main conflict is over uranium enrichment, which can create both reactor fuel and the fissile core of nuclear arms. In seeking to reduce Iran’s bomb-making ability, the U.S. has proposed that Tehran export much of its stockpile of enriched uranium — something the Islamic Republic has long said it would not do.

The diplomats said both sides in the talks are still arguing about how much of an enriched uranium stockpile to leave Iran. It now has enough for several bombs, and Washington wants substantial cuts below that level.

But the diplomats said the newly created catalog lists shipping out much of the material as tentatively agreed upon. The diplomats, who are familiar with the talks, spoke to the AP recently and demanded anonymity because they are not authorized to comment on the closed negotiations.

But Reuters is reporting that the Iranian foreign ministry says that there is no tentative agreement on transferring the enriched uranium:

“Such news is spread out of political motives and its goal is to tarnish the climate of the talks and make it more complicated to reach a settlement,” the state IRNA news agency quoted her as saying.

The semi-official ISNA agency, citing an “informed source”, also denied the report: “The topic of transferring (enriched) uranium abroad has been circulating for a while, but we haven’t had any agreement in this regard.”

The head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, told worshippers at Friday prayers that the long nuclear conflict was drawing to an end.

“Have no doubt that the nuclear issue will be resolved in Iran’s favour and we will soon celebrate Iran’s victory,” he was quoted as saying by Mehr News.

Iran and the six powers “P5+1” — the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — are to resume low-level talks on Tehran’s nuclear activities in Geneva on Jan 15, but wide gaps remain in their positions.

At what cost Iran’s “victory”? To Israel? To the Gulf states? You can be sure that any agreement made will guarantee Iran’s ability to enrich uranium. That one aspect constitutes a victory for Iran, who has insisted for the last decade that they have that right while two administrations held the position that the U.S. would not negotiate until Iran agreed to abandon its enrichment program.

And they will doubtless be allowed to continue improving their enrichment infrastructure, including being able to build ever faster, more powerful centrifuges so that the time it takes to enrich uranium to bomb-grade levels shrinks to a matter of weeks rather than months. It’s also a near certainty that any inspection regime agreed to will not be as stringent or as intrusive as it needs to be to prevent Iran from constructing a nuclear weapon.

The next round of talks have been extended for several months. There is no sign that deadlines mean anything to either side and talks will continue until Iran wears us down and gets what it wants.

But as a consolation prize, President Obama will make some more history. Isn’t that comforting?