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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs