News / Middle East

Iran Nuke Talks: What's at Stake

FILE - A general view of the Arak nuclear power plant, 190 km southwest of Tehran Jan. 15, 2011.
FILE - A general view of the Arak nuclear power plant, 190 km southwest of Tehran Jan. 15, 2011.
Margaret Besheer
The U.S. State Department confirmed this week that talks between six world powers and Iran to find a permanent deal on Tehran’s nuclear program will begin in New York in mid-February.  

In November, the United States and five other powers sealed a short-term deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program, in exchange for limited relief from economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.  The deal, signed in Geneva, went into effect January 20.

The six-month agreement provides for the incremental release of $4.2 billion in frozen oil money and another $2 billion from the loosening of trade restrictions.  That is just a fraction of the $120 billion the U.S. Treasury Department estimates American- and European Union-imposed sanctions have cost Iran in lost revenue since 2010.

Now, the five permanent Security Council members - known as the P5 - plus Germany, will meet at the political director level with Iran to seek a long-term comprehensive deal.

Michael Elleman, senior fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says there are many difficult issues to be resolved, and the negotiation process may stretch beyond six months.  High on the agenda, he says, will be the number of centrifuges Iran is allowed to keep.

“Some have projected maybe a thousand centrifuges running, as opposed to around the 9,000 that they presently have operating.  The reason for that is that they want to minimize Iran’s ability to dash to a bomb. So that’s one issue. The compromise will probably mean that they will be able to retain somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 centrifuges, all of the first generation type," said Elleman.

Another sticking point, says Alex Vatanka of the Washington-based Middle East Institute, is the level to which Iran will be allowed to enrich uranium - a key component in nuclear weapons.

Under the interim deal, Tehran has agreed not to enrich beyond 5 percent, which Vatanka says would keep it away from weapons-grade uranium.

“We have to wait to see how America pursues the idea of Iran having any enrichment on its soil.  Because the Iranians have made it very clear, they are adamant, there will be no stopping of the enrichment of uranium on Iranian soil, they will continue with that," said Vatanka.

The U.S. has said that neither the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which Iran is a signatory, nor the Geneva deal, represents recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium.

Analysts say there will also be negotiations around the future of the heavy water reactor at Arak and a second uranium enrichment plant at Fordo, near Qom.
But it is not just about the U.S. and Iran.  The other members of the P5 - Russia, China, Britain and France - plus Germany - also will be part of the negotiations.
Michael Elleman says that while Russia and China may not have the difficult relationship that the West has with Iran, they still do not want to see Tehran emerge as a nuclear player.

“What China and Russia want is stability.  So if a nuclear Iran means an unstable region, then they have a problem with a nuclear Iran.  I don’t think they really worry about Iran extorting them with nuclear weapons, they worry about Iran disrupting the flow of energy from the region," he said.

On the sanctions front, George Washington University professor Edmund Ghareeb says Iran wants sanctions lifted so it can build its economy.

“They want to improve the standard of living of their people, they want to play a major economic role in the region, they want to play a political role in the region, they want recognition of their regional role by the other players, by the outside world as well," said Ghareeb.

MEI’s Vatanka says that while the issues are many, the diplomatic climate for negotiations is good because the key players in Washington and Tehran appear serious about making a deal.

“What is important is to keep our eyes on the key player when we’re looking at the Iranian regime - the key player is the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.  And he has made it abundantly clear that he wants a deal.  On the United States side we have President Obama in the White House who has made it abundantly clear that he wants a deal," he said.

Professor Ghareeb says if President Barack Obama can achieve a breakthrough on this issue it would be a very important part of his legacy.

“This is something that’s been going on for quite a long time, and it looked like it’s impossible.  Some people believed that the only way is to use force, for example.  But if the administration is able to reach an agreement, I think this would be considered a major achievement," he said.

While the talks will be held in New York, the United Nations will not be a party to them.  The choice of venue could give Iranian officials an opportunity to meet with the Iranian diaspora, international businessmen and others.  It also avoids a setting, such as Washington, which would be more politically symbolic.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs