Iran must now accept or reject a proposal that offers some sanctions relief in return for Tehran’s reducing its stockpile of uranium enriched close to weapon-grade. This hopeful note – Tehran’s reaction was positive – comes as a showdown looms, because Iran continues to inch ever closer to being able to make a nuclear weapon.
In a diplomatic process where expectations are low, the talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday and Wednesday were considered a success. The United States and its negotiating partners – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – got what they wanted. A senior U.S. official said Washington was “not expecting a breakthrough in Almaty.” It was enough, the official said, that the six major powers had the “opportunity to put a new and promising proposal on the table.”
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, called the new proposal “more realistic” and, according to one Western diplomat, even carried out a “charm offensive.” Said Jalili, “They tried to bring proximity in some points between the viewpoints of Iran and their own, which we believe is positive, despite the fact that we have a long way to reach the optimum point.” He was also less confrontational during the closing press conference. He did not, for example, present pictures of Iranian scientists allegedly assassinated by a U.S.-Israel covert operation, as he had before.
Western diplomats were cautious, however. The Iranian nuclear crisis has been characterized by rounds of talks that have raised hopes only to end in deadlock, since Iranian and U.S.-led positions fundamentally contradict.