STATE DEPARTMENT —
International nuclear negotiators will meet with Iran's foreign minister again this week for talks on limiting the country's nuclear program. Some nations fear that Tehran may be trying to develop atomic weapons. Iran is hoping to bring to an end crippling economic sanctions by offering new proposals at the upcoming negotiations. However, U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia believe the Obama administration is moving too quickly.
As the United Nations nuclear agency reports "productive" talks with Iran over long-delayed inspections of its atomic facilities, the United States says it welcomes the opportunity to test whether Iran is willing to submit to international standards.
"Some have suggested that somehow there’s something wrong with even putting that to the test. I suggest that the idea that the United States of America as a responsible nation to all of humankind would not explore that possibility would be the height of irresponsibility and dangerous in itself, and we will not succumb to those fear tactics and forces that suggest otherwise," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Among those concerned about overtures from Iran's new government are long-time U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
"When you hear the Saudis talking about what needs to be done in order to prevent a [nuclear-armed] Iran, I mean it sounds familiar. I think that you can hear that Arabic sounds familiar to Hebrew when it comes to Iran," said Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Livni also said that Israel wants to cooperate with Arab governments that are equally wary of Iran.
"Unfortunately, the open conflict between Israel and the Palestinians makes it impossible or very difficult for them to act with Israel against Iran. Because when it comes to public opinion in their own state, Israel is still the enemy," explained Livni.
Washington has not done enough to ease Saudi and Israeli concerns about these nuclear talks, according to Adam Ereli, the former U.S. ambassador to Bahrain.
"Their nervousness is understandable because they're seeing what is happening in Washington and New York, and they're not hearing anything differently privately from senior levels of the U.S. government," said Ereli.
He believes that the nervousness about Iran's intentions is well founded.
"I think their goal is to develop a nuclear weapon. And they're not going to accept limitations that prevent them from that, even for sanctions relief," said Ereli.
Iran claims that it is not trying to develop atomic weapons, but is merely pursuing a peaceful civilian nuclear program. Iranian state media said talks in late October with the U.N. nuclear watchdog broke the "deadlock" between Iran and the agency.
Progress on negotiations follows the election of President Hassan Rouhani, who is setting a new course for Iran, according to American University professor Akbar Ahmed.
"I think there's a belief already coming out of Iran that we can and we must work within the international quarter, within the frame of the community of nations, and that we want to come in out of the cold," said Ahmed.
Kerry points out that the United States expects concrete action from Iran, not just talk.
"Our eyes are wide open. The actions must be real. They must be fully verifiable. They must get the job done. And no words can replace those actions," said Kerry.
Kerry made plain that only verifiable actions will lead to the easing of U.S. and European Union sanctions. The sanctions have seen Iranian oil exports fall by more than one million barrels per day, fueling inflation and undermining the value of Iran's currency.