Expert: Low Expectations for P5+1 Iran Talks


Washington, April 11- Iran will likely use upcoming world talks to play for more time as it forges ahead with its nuclear program, a top analyst said Wednesday.

“My suspicion is that not a lot of good is going to come out of these negotiations,” Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council Ilan Berman said on a conference call sponsored by The Israel Project.

Iranian negotiators are slated to hold talks in Istanbul on April 14 with representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany (P5+1) even as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mocked the rounds of international sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. Western diplomats have said the punishing measures may be the main reason that Iran has decided to rejoin negotiations.

Yet Berman said that between the three previous rounds of talks that failed and the accompanying compromises floated by various western states, “it’s hard to be optimistic that this time it’s going to be different.”

The U.N. imposed four rounds of sanctions following years of Iranian refusal to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which concluded last year that some Iranian nuclear activities could only be used for weapons development. Despite the IAEA evidence, Tehran denies it is trying to create nuclear weapons.

One reason for the current pessimism, Berman said, is that with U.S. forces out of Iraq and pulling out of Afghanistan, the Iranians see a diminished U.S. threat in the region and would feel less need to compromise on their program. For their part, the Obama administration is unsure of the specific goal with Iran as it seeks to leave the region.

“The administration has no clear position what constitutes a diplomatic victory,” Berman said, “and therefore policy paralysis is very easy.”

Berman also said that western diplomats have already shifted the goalposts, and the debate is now about what percentage of enriched uranium is acceptable for Iran to have rather than about possession of such nuclear materials in the first place.

Ultimately, coaxing Iran away from its nuclear efforts to peaceful purposes may prove impossible for international diplomats, Berman said.

“Iran can’t be trusted to confine use to civilian activities,” he said. “You’re not going to find a smoking gun, but what you do find is a lot of tell-tale indications that this is the option the Iranians are keeping open.”

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