This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy In Focus.
The US stance on Iran’s uranium enrichment program, according to recent media reports, is softening.
In other words, Washington might agree to a technical workaround on the issue of dismantling centrifuges or accept a higher number of active centrifuges than it had previously been seeking in international negotiations with Iran.
But if the P5+1—that is, the five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—and Iran fail to reach an agreement on a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program by the November 24 deadline, the reason will be quite obvious, as this quote from a Western diplomat reveals: “On the core issues, we remain pretty far apart,” the diplomat told a group of journalists on September 26. “On enrichment, we are not there yet.… There are significant gaps, but we are still expecting significant moves from the Iranian side.”
Like Samuel Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon, waiting the length of the play for a character who never appears on stage, the P5+1 have been “expecting significant moves from the Iranian side” on uranium enrichment for over seven months now, since talks on a comprehensive deal began in late February. Those moves haven’t materialized. Some politicians in the United States and Europe are both irritated and mystified at Iran’s “intransigence” in the face of US “flexibility.”
But they shouldn’t be.
Iran already made some pretty significant moves to reach last year’s interim agreement. Iran’s leaders agreed to freeze their nuclear program in place, to drastically cut their stockpile of enriched uranium, and to cooperate with stringent monitoring and verification processes—agreements that they have kept.