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First Day of Nuclear Talks Produce Zilch

P5+1 countries Iran talk again today. Will they do more than talk?

Marc Tracy
May 24, 2012
The talks yesterday.(IRNA/Al Monitor)
The talks yesterday.(IRNA/Al Monitor)

It’s a little surprising that some (including, I think, myself) are surprised, but the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran yesterday in Baghdad were not a smashing success. The Iranian side called the new proposal, which would offer 3.5 percent enriched uranium but a stop to 20 percent, “unbalanced.” “The response from the Iranian side is: ‘What you are asking for is … not what we agreed to in Istanbul,’” an Iranian diplomat told Christian Science Monitor. “The points of agreement are not yet sufficient for another round,” another added. Today could be painted as a success in the same colors that the prior Istanbul meeting was: namely, because the sides agreed to meet again today, as had been planned. But how many times can agreeing to meet again be a victory in itself?

Well, depends. The deadline that looms over today’s talks is July 1—when the European Union oil embargo goes into effect. Iran is desperately trying to avoid that, and has been unsuccessful. If more talks were scheduled for before the embargo, then that would kick the can down the road (albeit also give Iran yet more time to, say, enrich uranium or test trigger devices) and give the two sides one more shot at agreeing to something. Dennis Ross makes more sense when he suggests the goal should be regular talks, not these attenuated meetings.

But it feels somewhat dumb even to engage in punditry on this stuff. As Jeff Goldberg notes, the Iranian nuclear program is a cornerstone of the mullahs’ regime. It’s going to take more than talks and promised carrots and threatened sticks to get Iran to make significant concessions. It’s going, at least, to to take that embargo.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.