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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid