In recent weeks, public discussion about ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — has experienced the same mood swings of a manic depressive.
There was a high caused by the surprise visit of IAEA director general, Yukiya Amano, to Tehran, two days before talks resumed in Baghdad on May 23. Amano announced that a deal was practically sealed and he had a promise from Iran that the remaining details would not stand in the way of an agreement.
Then there was a low, caused by the failure of the talks to yield any tangible result. Then, this week, there was a high caused this week by the sudden Iranian resolve to engage Western proposals put forward in Baghdad. Suddenly media chatter praises a newly-found readiness to negotiate and compromise. The Moscow talks next Monday are poised to offer new beginnings.
This is unlikely — and a new mood swing is guaranteed. Talks with the IAEA, which resumed in Vienna on June 8, failed to deliver what Iran had promised to Amano during his visit.
Iran will not open Parchin — a site believed to be used for nuclear tests — to international inspections. Enrichment continues unabated. The West may be toying with the idea of dropping the demand for enrichment suspension — a foolish concession given that Iran will not even begin to address the concerns of the IAEA about its nuclear programme’s suspected military dimensions.
Euphoria aside then, in Moscow, at most, the parties will inch slowly toward a cooked-up version of an old deal that Iran rejected in November 2009. The West is still seeking to remove 20 per cent enriched uranium from Iran in exchange for guarantees and incentives. Why Iran would accept a deal it rejected in the past is difficult to fathom — they are stronger today than three years ago. But engaging the proposal will solicit much optimism and ensure that more talks will be scheduled for July, or possibly later.
This is an old movie and one with no happy ending. Iran’s nuclear programme is still moving toward the bomb. Talks will only help avoid a crisis before the November 2012 US presidential elections, but little else.
Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies