Sunday, January 4, 2015

Encouraging Signs on an Iran Nuclear Deal

Over the last couple of days we've gotten some encouraging news on the negotiations with Iran over their nuclear weapons. On Friday we learned this:
Iran and the United States have tentatively agreed on a formula that Washington hopes will reduce Tehran’s ability to make nuclear arms by committing it to ship to Russia much of the material needed for such weapons, diplomats say.

In another sign of progress, two diplomats told Associated Press that negotiators at the December round of nuclear talks drew up for the first time a catalogue outlining areas of potential accord and differing approaches to remaining disputes.

The diplomats said differences still dominate ahead of the next round of Iran six-power talks on 15 January in Geneva. But they suggested that even agreement to create a to-do list would have been difficult previously because of wide gaps between the sides.
And here's the news today:
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday that ongoing nuclear negotiations with world powers are a matter of “heart”, not just centrifuges ahead of talks next week in Geneva.

Speaking to an economic conference in Tehran, Rouhani both countered hard-line critics worried Iran will give up too much while also attempting to signal his administration remains open to negotiation with the six-nation group leading the talks.

If “we are ready to stop some types of enrichment which we do not need at this time, does it mean we have compromised our principles and cause?” Rouhani asked.

He responded: “Our cause is not linked to a centrifuge. It is connected to our heart and to our willpower.”
Negar Mortazavi responded to the latest by tweeting: "Iran President Rouhani is preparing the ground for a nuclear deal. Watch this closely."

Trying to decipher the signals sent in the middle of these negotiations is perhaps a bit too much like reading tea leaves. And we know far less about the challenges Rouhani is facing from the hardliners in Iran than we do about the one's facing the Obama administration here at home. But today those tea leaves are looking hopeful.


  1. And we know far less about the challenges Rouhani is facing from the hardliners in Iran than we do about the one's facing the Obama administration here at home.

    Well, the Middle East is my area of specialization, and my assessment of Rouhani is that he's probably the most courageous reformist leader in the world today. He deserves most of the credit for the renewed nuclear negotiations since he took office, though it's very lucky the US had a leader like Obama who would seize the opportunity for a negotiated solution rather than a war.

    Rouhani's program of diplomatic re-engagement with the outside world, and reform and liberalization at home -- including establishment of a basic national health system -- are bitterly opposed by hard-line religious conservatives who dominate the national legislature. The parallels with Obama's situation are striking. But surveys show the Iranian people support him. They're sick and tired of theocracy, narrowly support abandoning the nuclear-weapons program, and overwhelmingly support improving relations with the West. That matters. Since the massive street protests of 2009 the mullahs have been rather nervous about outraging public opinion too blatantly.

    Rouhani has gotten a lot done despite the opposition of the religious establishment. My feeling is that the nuclear negotiations, too, will ultimately succeed. The biggest threat is probably the Republican faction in Congress which yearns to sabotage them; so far, however, their efforts to thwart Obama's agenda in other areas have proven rather klutzy, and he's consistently out-maneuvered them. There's grounds for hope.