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from The Great Debate:

Too many cooks in the Iran nuclear kitchen

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Last weekend, after years of failed negotiations, the “P5+1” nations -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China) plus Germany -- finally appeared to be on the verge of a deal with Iran regarding curbs on its nuclear program.

All except France were ready to sign a stopgap agreement that would offer Iran limited sanctions relief in return for a freeze in its nuclear program. But Paris torpedoed the arrangement at the last moment -- denigrating it as “a sucker’s deal.”

France's torpedoing of the agreement appears less related to genuine nuclear proliferation concerns than with trying to curry favor with anti-Iranian countries -- like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – who commission and buy expensive French military, satellite and nuclear hardware.  The lesson in this latest failure is there ought to be a single point of contact with Iran endowed with executive authority over resolving the nuclear issue.

Iran is now involved in separate discussions with both the P5+1 nations -- who cannot seem to reach a consensus themselves -- as well as with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). With so many disparate dialogues, requirements and revisions now in motion, it is not surprising that the nuclear issue hasn’t been resolved. There are too many cooks in the Iranian nuclear kitchen.

from The Great Debate:

Lessons for interpreting Iran

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Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani speaks with the media in Tehran June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Fars News/Majid Hagdost

Almost two weeks have passed since Hassan Rohani, the mild-mannered cleric often described as politically and socially moderate, was elected president of Iran by a landslide -- surprising virtually every expert and foreign government as well as many Iranians. The postmortems have been fast and furious -- mostly from the same experts who got the elections wrong in the first place, which makes one wonder whether the proverbial monkey with a typewriter can predict Iran better than those with iPads.

from The Great Debate:

Why Russia won’t deal on NATO missile defense

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President Barack Obama meets with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Mexico, June 18, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss missile defense, their thorniest bilateral problem, at the G8 summit in Ireland on June 17 and 18. Previous talks between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have floundered over the alliance’s refusal to give Moscow legal guarantees that the system would not undermine Russian nuclear forces.

from Bernd Debusmann:

America, Iran and mowing nuclear grass

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

In the long-running Western debate over what to do about Iran's nuclear program, fresh language has been as rare as fresh ideas. But here's a novel phrase worth noting: "Striking Iranian nuclear sites is like mowing the grass." How so?

The man who coined the simile, Middle East scholar Aaron David Miller, argues that no strike, or series of strikes, could permanently cripple the Iranian capacity to produce and weaponize fissile material. Absent complete success in wiping out Iran's hardened and widely dispersed nuclear sites, "the grass would only grow back again." The Iranians would "reseed" the grass "with the kind of legitimacy that can only come from having been attacked by an outside power."

from Tales from the Trail:

Missiles before talks — what’s the message from Iran?

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Everyone has their own way of broaching subjects they don't like.

Iran has decided the best prelude to upcoming talks with Western powers that are inevitably going to end up in a finger-pointing session over Tehran's nuclear program, is to test fire a bunch of missiles.

SWISS-BRAND/The United States has made clear it will focus on Iran's nuclear program at the meeting Thursday in Geneva. Let's see if the traditional neutrality of the Swiss venue makes a difference in keeping tempers in check (chocolates anyone?).

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