Perhaps sensing this desperation, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has declared that if a deal is not reached, Iran will immediately return to earlier enrichment levels, according the Reuters. Using language that reads suspiciously like a conscious threat, Araqchi described this potential situation as “a disaster for everyone.” It is the latest example of Iranian efforts to dominate negotiations in order to push for concessions from the US and other powers, while not offering any serious compromise from its end.
The classic example of this intractability has been Iran’s position on enrichment capability and the number of operational centrifuges that it plans to retain. While Western powers would like to see this number cut from about 19,000 to as little as a few hundred, Iran has plans to expand its supply to 50,000 and has so far proven unwilling to negotiate on this point. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated this point, Bloomberg reports.
Zarif also referred to what he called “the myth of breakout,” suggesting that the key focus of Western negotiations – to make sure that Iran is not in a position to quickly produce the components for a nuclear bomb – is faulty. He insisted that Iran is much farther away from that outcome than the US has suggested.
While Iran is remaining stubborn on the point of uranium enrichment, Reuters indicates that there are some indications that it may be making rare concessions on the topic of plutonium enrichment, in that it claims to be redesigning the Arak heavy water facility to reduce potential outputs. This facility has been a point of contention between Iran and nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, so some changes to the site may have been necessary to avoid poor IAEA reports, which might finally derail talks with the P5+1.
Those talks are set to resume on Monday, but in the meantime, Iran has had bilateral discussions with four of the six powers, including Russia on Wednesday. According to the Express Tribune, the Russian negotiator left those talks optimistic about the prospects for the deal. But Russia is a key Iranian ally and has supported the Iranian side in talks, meaning that optimism from that camp may be dubious. Overall, there has been a decided lack of optimism since no progress was made in the last formal round of negotiations.