Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits a uranium enrichment facility in 2008. (AP Photo/Iranian President's office, File.)
Both sides seem to want a deal in the talks between Iran and the P5+1 that started today and continue through Saturday in Almaty, Kazakhstan. But they ain’t there yet, and chances are there won’t be a deal this time, or next time, until after the conclusion of what promises to be a contentious election for Iran’s next president on June 14.
So stay tuned. And, Mr. Obama: Stay calm and keep talking.
By now, everyone knows what a deal would look like. The United States and its partners in the talks would acknowledge that Iran has the right to enrich uranium to 3 percent-purity, fuel-grade quality on its own soil, and the P5+1 would allow sanctions imposed by the United Nations to expire. (Whether the United States keeps its unilateral sanctions in place is another question, and Obama would have to push Congress hard to end those, too.) In response, Iran would pledge not to enrich beyond 3 percent, and it would allow the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency to intensify its inspection protocol indefinitely to assure the world that Iran isn’t militarizing its uranium enrichment program. Such an accord would probably take several steps, and it wouldn’t be completed for a year or two.
In the meantime, it’s clear that Obama and his new national security team, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, have zero appetite for war with Iran. Sorry, Bibi.
At the talks, which were preceded by a technical round in Istanbul and lots of upbeat comments by the Iranian side in particular, there appears—at least on Day One—to have been little movement. Western diplomats, speaking anonymously, were reported by the Wall Street Journal to have said that Iran had little give:
"There were some interesting but not fully explained general comments on our ideas," one of the diplomats said. "We have insisted on a second plenary this afternoon…so that they can respond in the kind of detail that will enable us to make progress."
However, Saeed Jalili, the chief negotiator for the Iranian side, who is close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Tehran had presented “specific plans and proposals … to start a new cooperation.” If so, at least so far, the P5+1 isn’t impressed. According to The New York Times, Jalili’s comments after the talks, about a new proposal, were a “bewildering surprise” to the P5+1. Still, as the Journal reports, Iran has taken several steps recently to calm the often-hysterical crisis atmosphere that surrounds its nuclear program: