Caution, Pessimism Pervades Iran Nuclear Talks

Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei is reportedly not very optimistic about the talks between Iran and the major world powers regarding the former’s nuclear program. And believe it or not, the US thinks that’s something of a good thing. A senior US administration official, in comments released by the State Department earlier this week, said even US President Barack Obama is only giving the nuclear talks a 50-50 chance. The official said she thought “it is right to approach these negotiations with a sober frame of mind… So I certainly think leadership all over the world is keeping expectations at the appropriate place – cautious, very cautious.”

Good thing, because based on Iran wants the final agreement to be and what the US wants the end result to be—Iran having demonstrated they won’t and can’t get nuclear weapons—look quite different.

One area of particular concern to the US, according to the senior official, is Iran’s missile program. The Americans don’t want Iran capable of delivering nuclear weapons via missile, and one way to prevent that is to prevent them from developing such missiles. The United Nations Security Council even said as much in one of their resolutions regarding Iran. The official said that “if one is addressing all Security Council resolutions, you have to address this in some way. Again, how is part of the negotiation.”

Iran, however, stated that missiles will not be part of the negotiations at all. According to the Fars News Agency, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied that missiles would be discussed and said, “Iran’s nuclear program is not related to the military issues and our military program is not related to the current negotiations.”

Similarly, the world powers are concerned about Iran’s capability to develop nuclear fuel via centrifuges. So the US official said that the number of centrifuges Iran has is a “critical” element to any final deal. However, part of the interim deal, in which Iran can only replace damaged older centrifuges with the same type of centrifuge, rather than newer models, is one area Iran wants to change in a final deal.

One Iranian official was quoted by Fars as saying, “The use of advanced and new centrifuges is one of the most important issues that should be studied and resolved for the comprehensive and long-term agreement because we will definitely not agree to Iran not being allowed to replace its existing centrifuges with different kinds of advanced and new ones.”

So, at the start of talks, it certainly looks as though the sides have some major hurdles to cross. Too bad the US official wouldn’t say what happens if a final deal is not reached by the six-month deadline set for the negotiations. And so far, the Administration has fought Congress from legislating new sanctions on Iran if no deal is achieved by then.

The sides have different ideas, no firm end date is settled on the talks and there are no consequences yet if the talks fail. Yep, looks like caution and pessimism are indeed the attitudes everyone should have.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, February 19, 2014)

What do you think?