Washington spelt out for the first time its approach to negotiations with Iran. This came in the form of a structured interview by Special Assistant to United States President Barack Obama and the White House coordinator for arms control Gary Samore, who took part in the talks at Istanbul between the P5+1 and Iran last Saturday.
Samore evidently knew Tehran would be listening. And he expressed satisfaction that Iran is serious about negotiations and disclosed that Iran proposed that in the present interim since Istanbul, an agenda could be prepared for the upcoming round in Baghdad on May 23. He noted, “we have started a process” although a “comprehensive solution” will take time. Samore reiterated a “step-by-step” approach.
He underscored two key points. First, US would front load the talks with those elements of Iran’s nuclear programme that are of “most concern from the standpoint of developing a nuclear weapons capacity”. He specified: a) Iran should give up 20-percent enrichment; b) Iran should suspend work on Arak heavy water research reactor facility.
Second, he qualified that while Iran would have the right to pursue a nuclear programme under the NPT, exactly what elements of the programme it could pursue will be a matter of negotiations.
Of course, Samore didn’t disclose what would be the US’ “reciprocal steps”. The US would probably say it wouldn’t go ahead with more sanctions? Samore couldn’t help grandstanding that “time works on our [Obama's] side.”
Samore slightly shifted the goal post, which would have been the purpose of his interview. Trust Tehran to respond. This could be negotiating tactic after assessing the Iranian “mindset” at the Istanbul round. Obama’s need is to keep things from blowing up till he gets re-elected for a second term. (That, paradoxically, is what worries Israel.) He is politically vulnerable till November — be it on Iran nuclear issue or the Palestine problem. (But that, precisely, is what Israel is banking on.) Read the transcript of Samore’s interveiew here.
Posted in Diplomacy.
– April 18, 2012