Talks Stagnate. Iran Continues.

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The latest batch of talks over Iran’s controversial nuclear program continue to demonstrate how the Iranian delegation and the UN security council (with the addition of Germany) fail to agree over a possible solution. The UN had offered to provide fuel for a reactor for medical research, parts to improve Iran’s civil aviation sector, and help on nuclear safety in exchange for Iran’s agreement to stop enriching uranium to 20%, give up its stores of such material (estimated to be 100kg), and shut down the underground facility at Fordo that carries out the enriching process.

Saeed Jalili, the chief Iranian negotiator, and his team used a PowerPoint presentation to elaborate their rejection of the West’s deal. He in turn demanded that the West recognise Iran’s right to enrich uranium, and ease sanctions in return for cooperation with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).

With the West increasingly worried as Iran seemingly draws closer and closer to reaching nuclear weapons capacity, it seems unlikely that they will back down and recognise the right to enrich uranium that Iran claims to have.

The powers at play here? As always there is more politics behind the situation than is immediately apparent. The nuclear negotiations with Iran, and the relations between the nations involved, may well have ramifications elsewhere. The US and Russia, two of the most influential countries in the nuclear development negotiations, are at loggerheads over Syria. Having rejected UN resolutions to take a harsher line with Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, has been accused of sending weapons to Syria. Only yesterday a Russian ship, reportedly carrying refurbished attack helicopters, was bound for the war-torn state, only to be forced to return after its financial cover was revoked by the British company insuring it. Russia and China have a history of blocking interventions in the affairs of other countries, famously critical of the intervention in Libya, and such an attitude may well spill over into the Iran-issue.

Nations Meeting to Discuss Iran’s Nuclear Program (2006)

Israel is also paying a great deal of attention to the talks. Denouncing Iran’s nuclear programme as belligerent and anti-Israeli, Netanyahu’s administration has publicly discussed the notion of a ‘pre-emptive strike’ on Iran. Furthermore, if the US aren’t seen to take a hard enough line with Iran it could call into question its history of allegiance with Israel. However too harsh a treatment could increase the risk of a military conflict.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said that the West should ‘be aware that arrogance, sense of superiority, and unreasonable demands in dealing with a nation that has learned resistance and unity from the Quran will go nowhere’ (Source: The Guardian).

While the West deliberates and delays it seems that Iran can continue their nuclear programme relatively unhindered. If the UN wants to stop Iran from reaching potentially dangerous levels of nuclear capability then it is evident that the talks need to start producing results. Sanctions currently in place are having a profound effect on the country’s economy, but have also risked a military conflict, something the UN is anxious to avoid. Which side will be forced to compromise, if an agreement is reached is uncertain. The alternative might cost many lives. As always, keep an eye on the news.

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