Iran Powwow In Geneva
Today was the big meeting between the United States and other allies and Iran in Geneva. They ended with a pledge for follow-on talks, which is about all that could be expected at this point, and a good sign. The US and Iran even held bilateral discussions on the side.
Washington had hoped to begin bilateral talks with Iran on a range of issues, among them trade and Tehran’s support for Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi insurgent and terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
But after new disclosures of a hidden Iranian enrichment facility dug deep into a guarded mountain near the holy city of Qum, the immediate goal of the negotiations shifted, to the aim that talks would touch on Iran permitting serious nuclear inspections and suspending its nuclear enrichment program.
It “cannot be an open-ended process, or talks just for the sake of talks, especially in light of the revelations about Qum,” said the American official, who briefed reporters Wednesday on condition of anonymity. “We need to see practical steps and measurable results, and we need to see them starting quickly,” he said.
Speaking at the United Nations, the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, described the talks as “constructive,” and said they focused on a wide range of issues that Iran laid out in its five-page proposal for talks, which included talk of global nuclear disarmament but no specifics about the Iranian nuclear program.
The US position is a "freeze for freeze," where no new sanctions are implemented if Iran freezes their uranium enrichment. Iran may have some leverage to bluff here. China is unlikely to participate in any sanctions, given their desire to continue to receive Iranian oil and invest. An oil spike in China as a result of an embargo or trade sanctions would harm their economic growth. And I think everyone around the table knows that.
However, the timing of the Qom facility disclosure gives the West a bargaining chip. With the IAEA agreeing that Iran broke the law, a credible case can be made globally, based on that independent judgment, for punishment.
Ultimately, I think the third-way option, where Iran buys enriched uranium from a third party that it can use in its reactors under IAEA monitoring, could actually spark an agreement. Iran has shown a willingness to consider this in the past. That there will be future talks is a good sign. More talking, less posturing.
...Obama calls for inspections of the facility at Qom within two weeks.