Iran: Decreasing Chances of Nuclear Deal

 

The AFP reported on Friday that bilateral talks were continuing for a second day in Geneva, between the United States and Iran, but that no new information had leaked out of the first day’s discussions. It may be that the participants are particularly tight-lipped at this stage, or it may be that no noteworthy progress had been made towards bridging the gap between contrary positions. No doubt this latter possibility contributed to the reported uncertainty regarding whether the bilateral talks would end on Friday or continue into the weekend.

The problems that have likely been exhibited at those talks are sure to be exacerbated by this week’s news that there has been little recent progress in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s probe into Iran’s nuclear program. As was widely anticipated, the IAEA acknowledged this lack of progress in a report on Friday, which also highlighted concerns about construction activities that have been observed at the Parchin military site, according to Reuters and the AFP. That site has long been suspected to have links to the military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program, and for just as long Iran has denied IAEA inspectors all access to the site.

That denial is just one item in a long list of defiant activities and statements that Iran has displayed throughout the negotiating process with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany. An editorial published in Vice News provides a fairly comprehensive list of these actions and statements, in order to support the observation that Iran is still not cooperating, regardless of its continued presence at the negotiating table.

Most, if not all, of the Iranian actions highlighted in the essay should be familiar to readers of Iran News Update. They include persistent demands for unrestrained uranium enrichment capability, refusal to dismantle or substantially reconvert the Arak heavy water plant that could provide a plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon, insistence on a short duration of any final deal that is signed, and refusal to consider any limits to Iran’s ballistic missile stockpiles.

This apparent intransigence from Tehran contributes to a decline in the probability of the negotiations coming to a successful conclusion. This, at least, is the contention of Cliff Kupchan, a policy expert with the Eurasia Group. Kupchan formerly estimated the chances of a deal at 60 percent, but as of Friday he has reduced those chances to only 40 percent.

Quartz presents Kupchan as someone who is interested in a moderate assessment of the diplomatic situation between Iran and the US. As such, he is prepared to levy blame on both sides if the deal is not completed, saying that hardliners in both camps will torpedo the process in the event that another extension is required. Yet at the same time, Kupchan’s memo on the topic seems to acknowledge that the current difficulties facing the negotiations stem primarily from the Iranian side, where “statements by top officials have become considerably harsher over the past two months.”