Did Iran Take Uranium Shipment Off the Table as a Negotiating Tactic?
Trita Parsi says Iran is trying to make the U.S. put lifting all sanctions back on the table
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network, I’m Paul Jay. The negotiations between the P5+1, that’s the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, with Iran about Iran’s nuclear program continue. And now joining us with an update from Laussane is Trita Parsi.
Trita is the founder and current president of the National Iranian American Council, and author of the book Treacherous Alliance, and A Single Role of the Dice. Thank you for having us, Trita.
TRITA PARSI, PRESIDENT OF NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL, AUTHOR: Thank you for having me.
JAY: So there’s a whole kerfuffle here this morning, being Monday morning. Now it’s a little later, but the New York Times carried a piece at the beginning of the day saying that Iran had balked and baked out at the last minute of a deal to ship its enriched uranium to Russia. Then later, the State Department siad there actually had been no deal. What’s that all about?
PARSI: I think the New York Times jumped the gun on this story, and overstated it. There has been, as part of a larger solution that the Iranians have discussed and to a certain extent hinted that they would agree to, shipping out their enriched, their lower-enriched uranium. And they indicated in an interview last night that that’s no longer no the table.
The reason why that is, I believe, is because the Iranians have largely agreed to the Western demands, but they have not agreed to what the West has offered in turn. And what the Iranians were signaling is, well, if you’re only giving us that in return, then we’re going to have to take a few things off the table.
But it’s part of the negotiation; there was never a deal that they walked out of. So the White House is correct in pointing out that the New York Times story really overstated this. But it is also correct that there has been a measure in which the Iranians have [waged] something and then taken it back, because they got no response.
JAY: Now, by no response you’re talking about sanctions. The extent to which sanctions will be lifted, and when they’ll be lifted.
PARSI: Yes. Because the thing with shipping out of the LEU is that it’s an irreversible measure. Once the LEU has left Iranian soil, essentially it is not going to come back. It is not in the control of the Iranians to bring it back. So the Iranians, and the widely accepted principle of these negotiations, which is that if you offer something, or if the other side is demanding something irreversible, you have to offer irreversible concession in turn. And the irreversible concession that the Iranians are looking for is that the U.S. and the others in the P5+1 would agree to lift — lift, not suspend — UN sanctions up front, and make sure that this transaction between irreversible and irreversible takes place.
When the U.S. and the P5 essentially have said no to that, Iranians then said no, well, in that case, some of the things the Iranians were willing to put on the table is no longer on the table.
JAY: Now, in the recent couple of weeks there’s been two articles, one in the Washington Post, one by John Bolton in the New York Times, outright calling for suspending, ending the negotiations and bombing Iran. Now, not the least of which to say that’s advocating a war crime. It would be a straightforward violation of international law. But what effect has this had both in Iran and on the negotiations? Do people take this threat seriously?
PARSI: I think the experience had, largely, is that it is pointing out that the opposition to a deal in the United States is not because the deal was not good enough. It’s not because the Obama administration has given too much stuff. Nonsense. What it is is that the opposition actually wants a war, and they’re upset at any deal that would have been negotiated, because any deal would have prevented a war from taking place.
And the impact on the talks themselves I don’t think has been particularly strong, because the U.S. is in no position, really, to start a war at this point, and the Iranians are quite confident that the Obama administration is not inclined to start a war at this point.
So it really shows how isolated the neoconservatives and their Israeli allies are in this. Because this is not a position in which they are isolating Iranians or the Obama administration. The entire P5+1, countries that otherwise have very, very severe disagreements between each other are all united on this point. They want a negotiated settlement, and they don’t want John Bolton’s advice.
JAY: Now, I go back to this New York Times piece. I interviewed Robert Kelley, the former IAEA arms inspector, and was a director at IAEA. He thought that New York Times piece was actually malicious, this is, you know, intended to try to help scuttle the negotiations.
PARSI: I, I can’t speak to as to whether this was done with bad intent or not. But it is not a leak. There’s a press conference, or an interview, that Araghchi, the deputy Iranian Foreign Minister gave to Iranians. It was in front of all of us, there were plenty of Western media who were listening in on it, but they obviously couldn’t understand it because it was in Persian.
And Araghchi did say this. He said, suddenly, without being asked about it that you know, shipping out the LEU is not on the Iranian agenda at this point. That is definitely signaling that there has been some form of a change, but the way the New York Times piece overstated it is because it indicated that there was some form of an existing agreement that had now been changed. It was never an agreement. Everyone has said, from the Iranian as well as the American side, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
JAY: But what this, but it’s the way the Iranian foreign minister’s quoted, this sounded like, not only it’s not going to get on the table. Is this a deal breaker? Or are these other solutions they’re talking about, diluting the uranium and such, is that real?
PARSI: He could very well break the deal, because if the Iranians are not shipping out the LAU, the calculation for break out would change, and that would be highly problematic for the Iranian side. And I think, frankly, that’s the signal Iran is probably trying to send. They’re saying, these things that we know that you need, we’re not going to be willing to put on the table if you’re not willing to give us the sanctions released to the UN that we’re requesting in return.
JAY: What other critical issues are still in front of the negotiators?
PARSI: Well, they’re still also discussing their research and development dimension of this. Some aspect of the duration of the deal remains problematic. Whether the sanctions would be that the UN would have or not have a snapback provision is also something that is debated. So there’s still a couple of issues.
Well, when you really take a look at it and you see that these are the remaining issues that are standing in the way of a solution, you have to remind yourself, well, how far you have come. A year ago. The amount of differences, the amount of disagreements were immense. And now they essentially, the U.S. is down to two, or three, or perhaps four. That’s a huge achievement. And hopefully it will also resolve those last for, and we actually will have what would be a very historical deal.
This is probably the first time that there has been a major international dispute, a major one, so many war and peace issues that was resolved through diplomacy without first going to war.
JAY: All right, thanks very much for joining us, Trina.
PARSI: Thank you so much for having me.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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