A U.S. administration official said that after so many hours of tough exchanges, the parties need to talk to each other, parse what had been said, consult with their governments and determine whether there is a road ahead.
“I am very sober about what occurred here,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with the rules set for a news briefing [...]
Although the discussions took place behind firmly closed doors, their difficult nature became clear when Saeed Jalili, the Iranian negotiator, told reporters that his country had an inalienable right to enrich uranium at any level it chose, suggesting it was far from meeting the demands of the international community.
“It remains clear that there are significant gaps between the substance of the two positions,” said Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign policy representative and lead negotiator.
Apparently the talks were much more frank and detailed than previous sessions, but that only showed the gulf in negotiating positions between the two sides.
There isn’t much of a way forward at this point. Nuclear experts from the two sides will meet in Instanbul in early July to discuss the technical issues surrounding the negotiations. After that, some deputy-level talks may ensue, but the principals have no future timetable.
The P5+1 (permanent five members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) want an end to high-level uranium enrichment, with Iran shipping out of the country its enriched uranium and closing its most secretive nuclear facility at Fordo, which is buried inside a mountain. Iran wants an end to economic sanctions and a statement that the country has the legal right to pursue a civilian nuclear energy program under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Neither side wants to give up all of that, and so the negotiations have drifted. Furthermore, we’re now headed into election season in the US, with elections coming up not too far down the road in Iran next year. So the conditions for a deal aren’t really there as much as the conditions for continued belligerence.
This will only serve to ratchet up pressure. In fact, that’s already happening. France announced that they want tighter sanctions after the close of the talks. By July 1, the new package of EU sanctions on oil shipments will be implemented, amounting to an embargo on a large swath of the market.
I suspect we’ll hear a louder set of war talk over the next several weeks, sadly.