Iran is resorting to its usual negotiating tactics on the nuclear issue: Slip away from its commitments under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and slide by international efforts to halt its nuclear weapons program. Yesterday, Iranian negotiators ended two days of talks with officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is charged with verifying compliance with the nonproliferation treaty. Although the meetings failed to resolve the standoff over Tehran’s longstanding failure to fully cooperate with the IAEA, Iran’s negotiators played up the results as “very constructive.”
The chief outcome apparently is that the talks produced an agreement to hold more talks—a familiar pattern for Iran, which is a champion of “rope-a-dope” diplomacy. The IAEA talks will resume next Monday, two days before Tehran resumes talks with the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) over its continued defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring it to halt uranium enrichment and other activities useful for building nuclear weapons. You can bet thatIran will make promises on Monday that it will trumpet to gain leverage for the P5+1 negotiations later in the week.
The IAEA is pressing Iran on evidence detailed in an IAEA report last November assessing that Iran may have conducted experiments necessary to build a nuclear weapon. In particular, IAEA inspectors want to gain access to a military facility at Parchin, where they suspect that Iran conducted tests on high explosives related to the detonation of a nuclear weapon. Iran has been stalling for years and recently was revealed by satellite photos to be cleaning the Parchin facility to rid it of possible evidence.
Perhaps this is what Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh meant when he told reporters that “everything is on the right track.” Iran is steering negotiations with the IAEA and with the P5+1 toward another trip down its slip and slide.