Ten months of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six world powers have gone by. Ten months in which the two sides signed an interim deal, Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), with the intention of inking a final-status agreement by July 20. But July 20 came and went, and gaping differences emerged in the two parties’ positions.
And now? The talks have been extended by another four months, and minor concessions have been made by both sides. Nevertheless, it would seem that the differences – particularly over uranium enrichment – have not decreased.
But how can we be sure where things stand? If you ask Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, the talks have so far been a success for Iran – easing sanctions, relaxing nuclear demands and drawing businessmen to the country. But take a look at the Western press and a more complex picture emerges – one of limited success and enduring disparities.
Take the Los Angeles Times’ Paul Richter, who last week quoted former Obama advisor Robert Einhorn as saying the gaps – again, on the “fly in the ointment” of uranium enrichment – are actually growing larger rather than the other way around, as the Iranians have “quietly” been “extending what they claim they are entitled to on enrichment.” This particular stumbling block, Einhorn said, may be insurmountable. The hardline speech of the Supreme Leader, published on iranwire, limited even further the space of the Iranian team.
Over at The Economist, Einhorn was cited as well, this time with the assertion that while Iran’s nuclear demands “fail the realism test at several levels,” a longer-term agreement spanning at least 10 years might “provide the basis for a compromise.”
Meanwhile last week, The Iranian devoted a piece to Khamenei’s “elusive” fatwa banning nuclear weapons, questioning both its legitimacy and its authority. The Islamic ruling forbidding weapons of mass destruction, it warned, may be little more than a “deception tactic.”