LONDON - The near failure of talks in Moscow and the pending imposition of a full oil embargo by the European Union have deepened the dispute between Iran and the international community, and increased concerns about military action.
Two days of grueling talks did not narrow the gaps between the West and Iran. The negotiators could only agree to hold lower level talks in the coming weeks.
Mark Fitzpatrick at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies calls the Moscow meetings “a disappointment,” and has little hope for the follow-on talks.
“It’s, of course, possible that technical talks could narrow differences. But what is really called for is a political decision,” he said.
Fitzpatrick predicts more international sanctions in an effort to convince Iranian leaders to abandon their high-level nuclear fuel enrichment program. He says an embargo on Iranian natural gas could be next.
But Leo Drollas, the director of the Center for Global Energy Studies, disagrees.
“There’s not much scope for restricting that trade. It’s not as important for them as oil. Financial restrictions, internationally, are probably the biggest stick that can be used. The financial restrictions would be quite onerous,” Drollas said.
Iran says the enrichment is for peaceful purposes, but experts say it brings the country dangerously close to being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
And if the next phase of talks fails, there could be another danger - an attack by Israel.
“It probably will escalate into a larger conflagration, and that could actually lead to a situation where the very existence of the Islamic Republic of Iran could be threatened,” Mark Fitzpatrick said.
But he says Israel will not likely attack as long as talks continue.
At the same time, the European Union’s oil embargo against Iran goes into full effect July 1. Leo Drollas says the embargo has already cut Iran’s oil revenues nearly in half, without causing an increase in the global price of oil.
“The world has more oil than it can handle at the moment," he said "That’s why the price of oil has come down quite heavily. And there’s no embargo in the world that’s oil tight, if you like, or water-tight.”
Drollas says Iran uses its own ships and financing to get around restrictions. So while the pain of economic sanctions is significant, it has not has not yet convinced Iranian leaders to make the policy changes the international community wants.