More than thirty years of enmity and deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Iran aren’t going to go away overnight — or over two meetings, maybe four, five, ten. It will take time.
So one thing to be heartened by is just the fact that Iran and the P5+1 countries, including the U.S., are sitting down at the table in Turkey at all. It’s a crucial step in creating a process and, without a process, the two countries will continue on a long-term path toward confrontation. The technical difficulties of Iran’s nuclear program are merely a delay.
Here’s a piece I did with Jim Lobe at IPS on how there is a glimmer of hope, even if the talks only yield more talks, that something positive could eventually materialize. The point is that without talking, the hope can never be realized. Here’s to the slow, laborious process:
The most realistic hope among those who favour enhanced efforts to engage Tehran is that Iran and the so-called P5+1 – the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany – will agree at this session to continue negotiations, possibly to broker a confidence-building measure, such as the aborted nuclear fuel swap deal that was first put forward in October 2009.
“Given the level of distrust between the sides and the problems we have had in the past with diplomatic engagement, I would regard the commitment to have another meeting to constitute success,” said Greg Thielmann, a former senior State Department intelligence analyst, currently with the Arms Control Association (ACA).
“I wish for other outcomes as well, including bilateral discussions between the U.S. and Iranian delegates,” he added, “but a commitment to continuing diplomatic engagement is sufficient for now.”
The U.S. delegation will be led by the undersecretary for political affairs, William Burns, who has taken part in all three previous meetings between the P5+1 and Iran dating back to the last months of the administration of President George W. Bush.
“We’re not expecting any big breakthroughs, but we want to see a constructive process emerge that leads to Iran engaging with the international community in a credible process and engaging and addressing the international community’s concerns about its nuclear programme,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner Thursday.
While he ruled out the possible lifting of existing sanctions against Iran, he also stressed that Washington was open to reviving the October 2009 proposal to swap most of Iran’s low-enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile in exchange for more highly enriched rods that are needed to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), which produces medical isotopes.