Talks aimed at a resolution between Iran and the West over their nuclear program collapsed today, with no progress and no timetable for future talks. Overall the negotiations sounded like a huge waste of time.
Western officials expressed disappointment, but not surprise. They reiterated that their proposals, including a modified deal under which Iran would ship out most of its enriched uranium in return for nuclear fuel, were still in effect should Iran choose to open talks without preconditions.
The head of the delegation of the six world powers, Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, said: “Our proposals remain on the table. Our door remains open. Our telephone lines remain open.” But she said the Iranian chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, made no promise even to raise the proposals in Tehran and report back.
The dynamic around Iran’s nuclear program has changed for both sides of late. On the Western side, they recognize that Iran’s progress has slowed to a crawl, perhaps due to the effectiveness of the Stuxnet worm computer virus and other rumored methods of sabotage. There’s less of a sense of urgency now. On Iran’s side, their leaders have used economic sanctions as a means to reform their economic system, strengthening their hold on the country in the process. So more sanctions would have little effect, and Iran has little to fear from them. Therefore, both sides have a lot of incentive to simply stick to their positions.
So the West will still lay out their idea for a fuel swap of highly enriched uranium to keep that process out of Iranian hands, and Iran will still insist on their right to develop civilian nuclear energy, and maybe the most reactionary on both sides will rattle the sabers a little bit. But the reactionaries may not want to face that their argument about an imminent Iranian threat has gotten weaker over time.