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Iran and the West Quietly Resume Negotiations on Nuclear Program

Since the beginning of the Iranian oil embargo imposed by the EU July 1, the press reports have sought to increase tensions between Iran and the West rather than reduce them. Witness today’s story about Iran disguising its oil tankers to get around the embargo, proving their duplicity and desperation. Or witness the highlighting of one quote from the head of Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards claiming that they could reach US bases, warships, and Israeli land with their missiles in the event of an attack on their nuclear facilities.

But under the radar – I haven’t seen it in any US press other than McClatchy – the negotiations over the nuclear program are in the midst of a resumption.

After more than 15 hours of expert-level talks, the United States and other major world powers agreed with Iran early Wednesday to move toward resumption of full negotiations to ensure that Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment does not turn into a nuclear weapons program, a European participant at the talks said.

The meeting, in Istanbul’s upscale Conrad hotel, began Tuesday amid doubts that talks would resume after they stalled last month.

But as of early Wednesday, the participants reached agreement to implement the “Moscow plan,” a process that would start with a mid-level meeting between senior European Union official, Helga Schmidt, and her Iranian counterpart, Ali Bagheri.

The outcome of those talks would determine whether full-scale negotiations will follow, a European diplomat attending the talks told McClatchy. The diplomat spoke anonymously because the discussions are ongoing.

Since talks broke up with Moscow in June, there was genuine concern over whether the P5+1 (permanent five members of the UN Security Council, plus Germay) negotiations would continue at all. But the meeting between technical experts apparently went well.

The framework of the negotiations remain the same. The P5+1 want Iran to stop their uranium enrichment above 20% level, ship out future fuel for reprocessing abroad and stop activities at Fordow, the one facility assumed to have the protections to resist any attacks. Iran wants the economic sanctions, including the EU oil embargo, lifted, and international recognition of their right to enrich uranium for the purposes of civilian nuclear energy. This broke down in Moscow after Iran brought in some ancillary issues, but the technical talks created a common space for future negotiations.

But you wouldn’t hear this, for the most part, in the press.

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David Dayen

David Dayen