Yet another round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program wrapped up last week, just a month before the deadline for a final-status deal.
Reading the reports on the conclusion of the talks, you would think each outlet had witnessed an entirely different negotiation process: some, like the Huffington Post’s Ryan Costello, believe the parties are basically in agreement about the technical issues, with only the need to pacify more hawkish political elements back home – by haggling over the scope of the nuclear program and the number of centrifuges – standing in the way of an agreement. Others, such as Foreign Policy, think the outstanding issues that have yet to be ironed out belie the real issues that could critically undermine the West’s efforts.
Beginning his June 5 piece with the words “Oh, my God, they’re going to screw this up,” Foreign Policy’s Jeffrey Lewis wrote that stopwatches and centrifuges and breakout times were hardly as important as Iran’s hidden nuclear facilities in the big scheme of things; if Iran wanted to break out and build a bomb, it would do so at an undeclared facility, deal notwithstanding, he said.
Over at Slate, Greg Thielmann and Robert Wright also focused on the breakout issue, but said a two-month breakout time was hardly different from a 12-month breakout time – under tighter transparency and scrutiny, that is. After all, said Thielmann and Wright, a bad deal is better than no deal at all.
And right on cue, Iran announced several days ago that it would be “forced” to resume enrichment if talks fail, bringing about “a disaster for everyone.” Just how well does this warning bode for the Islamic republic’s intentions? Is it really just political pandering that prevents its current leadership from acceding to the West’s demands? What else might “force” it to race toward a breakout – openly or secretly?