12182014Thu

Iranian nuclear talks need to come to a close

The Washington Post

By Editorial Board

As the year begins, the Obama administration and its diplomatic partners are expecting the renewal of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, after a six-month hiatus. But there is scant indication that a breakthrough is in store. The international coalition, composed of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, intends to offer a slightly modified version of the deal Tehran rejected last June, with the faint hope that the pain of economic sanctions might have caused Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to soften. But there is no public sign of that: In fact, Iran has been slow to agree to a new meeting and, according to the New York Times, did not respond to a post-election feeler by the Obama administration on direct, bilateral talks.

The coalition proposal, portrayed as a confidence-building step, would address the most dangerous part of Iran’s program by requiring a freeze in the enrichment of uranium to a level of 20 percent, which is a short step from bomb-grade, and by shutting down the underground facility known as Fordow, where that enrichment takes place. Iran would also be required to ship its current stockpile of medium-enriched uranium out of the country. In return, it would receive certain economic concessions, like spare airplane parts, and perhaps a partial relaxation of some sanctions.

As it made clear in June, however, Iran expects far more from any agreement. It wants the sanctions lifted entirely and for the Security Council to recognize its “right” to enrich uranium, despite multiple resolutions ordering it to cease. Iranian negotiators have also indicated they want to connect a nuclear accord to the civil war in Syria, where Iran is seeking to preserve its place as a privileged strategic ally.

Most of these demands are rightly unacceptable to the Obama administration: Syria’s future relationship with Iran, for example, must be determined by Syrians following the removal of the Assad government, not by an international pact. But the willingness of the Khamenei regime to settle for less may be constrained by an ongoing power struggle between religious conservatives and nationalists, which could come to a head with the presidential election scheduled for June.

At the same time, the United States — and more so Israel — cannot easily wait many more months for a deal. If Iran continues to enrich uranium to 20 percent at its present rate, it may acquire enough to quickly make a bomb by the middle of this year, potentially giving it the “breakout capacity” that both President Obama and the Israeli government have vowed to prevent. Tehran would have crossed that line last fall had it not diverted a large part of its stockpile to fabricate fuel for a research reactor.

The administration can hope that Iran will continue to keep its uranium stockpile below the breakout threshold, or that it will reverse itself and accept some version of the proposed interim deal. But if negotiations remain stalled, Mr. Obama should consider making Iran a comprehensive offer that would permanently restrict its uranium enrichment and provide for intensive international monitoring in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. That would have the advantage of confronting the regime with a stark choice — and making clear whether a diplomatic solution exists.

Search

Act of Cowardice

Iran's ruling tyrants have executed yet another political prisoner in flagrant violation of international law.  READ MORE

The rush to Tehran amidst rise in executions

World leaders should halt these visits and link any deal with Iran to its human rights record.  READ MORE

Arming a dictator

What if President Obama ordered the sale of arms to Syrian dictator to massacre his opponents? READ MORE

Slaughter intensifies under Rouhani

231 executions have occurred since the presidential election in June which brought to power Hassan Rouhani. READ MORE

Silence is not the answer

Iran: Bloody crackdown targeting dissidents aims at terrorizing the people into submission. READ MORE

Iran’s Murder Machine

The wheels of Iran's Murder Machine turn in tandem with its nuclear machine. READ MORE

What now?

The West must drop the dangerous pretence that talking to a regime not interested in listening constitutes the winning strategy. READ MORE

A facelift

This cosmetic facelift should not dupe the West into thinking that there are fresh prospects for a nuclear deal. READ MORE

An Act of Cowardice

The terrorist attack against Iranian exiles at Camp Liberty, Iraq, is another sign of Iranian regime's weakness. READ MORE

Much atalk about nothing

In Istanbul they merely agreed to talk about talking later in May in Baghdad, of all places. READ MORE

An unholy alliance

The brutal state-imposed bloodbath in Syria deserves uncompromising reproach. READ MORE

Iran cries for freedom

The clerical regime in Iran has predictably unleashed another wave of terror against the citizenry since the outburst of the latest string of mass protests beginning on 14 February. READ MORE

A new Iran policy

The latest round of nuclear talks had an all-too-familiar result: more time for Tehran and less time for the international community to prevent a nuclear-armed theocracy. READ MORE

Murder overlooked

What would the rest of us do if a mad gunman was in our midst, systematically murdering our fellow human beings in front of our eyes? The responsible amongst us would not look the other way, because that would serve as a source of encouragement for the murderers to carry on with their heinous acts unchecked. READ MORE

Standing up to Iran's executioners

The Iranian regime's malicious noose has yet again taken an innocent life. Political prisoner Ali Saremi, 63, was hanged in Tehran's infamous Evin prison after a lifetime of peacefully espousing human rights and democracy. READ MORE