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Getting There with Iran, But Slowly

Iran and the P5+1 make progress toward an agreement

Getting There with Iran, But Slowly

The P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council: China; France; Russia; United Kingdom; United States plus Germany) and Iran concluded their talks in Baghdad Wednesday after “intense and detailed discussions” on Iran’s nuclear future. Both parties brought proposals and addressed the issue of whether Iran has the right to 20% enrichment of uranium. Iran says it needs 20 percent-enriched uranium to fuel a reactor in Tehran that makes medical isotopes for cancer patients. The United States and its negotiating partners have offered to provide fuel for that reactor if Iran stops enriching uranium beyond the 3.5 percent needed for most civilian uses.

There are significant differences between the proposals and both sides have agreed to meet again in mid June in Moscow to continue looking for consensus. The P5+1 made a proposal that would halt 20% enrichment- the most sensitive part of Iran’s nuclear fuel production. Iran, in turn, wants the U.S. and Europe to ease harsh economic sanctions on its oil exports in return for pledges to give wider access to U.N. inspectors and other concessions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported Friday that Iran is continuing to make steady progress enriching uranium but has not installed advanced centrifuges that could increase its output. It also notes that a heavy water reactor is now being built that could be used to produce plutonium for bombs. The IAEA reports that Tehran is still not providing the information necessary for the Agency to resolve oustanding concerns about their activity. New tighter sanctions against Iran will go into effect July 1st, making diplomacy difficult. The US has made it clear that it will not offer any sanctions relief at this stage in the negotiations regardless of whether Iran concedes on the issue of 20% enrichment.

 Will sanctions against Iran be lifted if it concedes on the issue of 20% enrichment? Is Iran really being offered any concrete concessions?Is it a good sign that another round of talks has already been scheduled?Are the Administration’s hands tied in reaching an agreement?