Baghdad is all atwitter over the P-5+1 talks with Iran beginning today. A sandstorm kept many European and Western diplomats from landing, but the Iranians were out in full force, with Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili leading the way. (He spent Tuesday paying calls on Iraqi leaders before settling down for a restful night and a day of “negotiations” with the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China.) But there’s no need to wait for good news: The New York Times has trumpeted a proto-agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran over a site the IAEA has been trying to visit for years. Which site, you ask? Parchin; you know, the one the Iranians have been sanitizing for the last few weeks. And maybe Iran will also sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) additional protocol, which requires additional safeguards, enables snap inspections, and more. Are the details worked out? Not quite (but we should trust IAEA Chief Yukiyo Amano, who’s tough and serious)… Have the Iranians promised both before? You bet. But optimism is in the air.
Nor should today be too much of a surprise. EU foreign policy deputy Helga Schmid has been meeting with her Iranian counterpart since the first P-5+1 meeting with Iran last month. The outlines of a deal have been making the rounds:
• Give Iran: Internationally supplied fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor
• Give Iran: Airline spare parts
• Give Iran: Some nuclear upgrades consistent with the NPT
• Iran gives: Removal of Iran’s almost-enough-for-a-bomb stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent (How much? All?)
• Iran gives: An end to enrichment at 20 percent (With verification at Fordow? Not clear.)
• What Iran doesn’t get: An immediate suspension of sanctions
Washington kibitzers are divided on the question of Iran’s goals. Are they more interested in heading off sanctions, which are eating into the Iranian economy and the regime’s popularity? Or are they more worried about heading off an Israeli strike? If it’s the former, they’re not going to be too happy, as it really does appear that the sanctions won’t immediately be lifted, nor the July 1 EU oil embargo annulled, at least not quite yet. If, as many of us suspect, the Iranians are more concerned about an Israeli strike, the biggest question for the Baghdad talks will be: are the Israelis satisfied? Ironically, that’s the shared aim for all the participants at the prime minister’s guesthouse in Baghdad’s Green Zone, Obama people and the Iranians most of all: How can we stop the Israelis?
Exit question: What happens when Iran doesn’t close the deal? Answer: America will offer more. Just watch.