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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora