Iran is considering freezing its nuclear development program in order to avert looming EU oil restrictions, according to a Bloomberg News report on Wednesday, while the State Department cites the crippling impact of current sanctions as the primary reason Tehran is suddently open for talks.
Iran’s ambassador to Moscow, Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi, claimed his country was weighing a new Russian plan calling for the cancelation of an EU oil ban should Iran agree to stop enriching uranium. However, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland wasn’t convinced, saying at Wednesday’s press briefing:
Well, frankly, these issues have to be negotiated at the table that we have now created and restarted with the P-5+1 process. So the ambassador of Iran to Russia is not a central player in those, and frankly, what’s most important is what Iran says and does at the negotiating table.
Nuland underscored how the current sanctions were “biting on the Iranian economy” as a direct result of the international pressure the U.S. has brought to bear. This pressure, including more sanctions than the U.S. has “ever been able to muster against Iran”, is the reason Tehran has come back to the negotiating table.
But what is most important, according to Nuland, is that the Iranians “actually roll up their sleeves and work with us and come clean on their program.”
Iran has previously argued that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. However, the U.S. and its allies see this as a smoke screen and are convinced Iran aims to develop a nuclear weapon.
Earlier this month world powers held preliminary talks with Iran in Istanbul that yielded no tangible outcomes, however, Iran has since expressed optimism that next month’s talks in Baghdad will be more frutiful in resolving the nuke dispute.
In another encouraging development, Israel’s top general told Haaretz on Wednesday that Iran was unlikely to develop a nuclear bomb because the Persian republic was led by “very rational people.” However, such sentiments sit in stark contrast to statements made by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who relayed to CNN his doubts that Iran would abandon its nuclear dream. In fact, Netanyahu seemed to insinuate talking to Iran was an exercise in futility:
“I hope that changes, but so far, I can tell you, the centrifuges are spinning,” Netanyahu said. “They were spinning before the talks began recently with Iran, they were spinning during the talks, they’re spinning as we speak.”
Maseh Zarif from the American Enterprise Institute was also pessimistic about the prospects of Iran rethinking its nuclear designs, telling USA Today that the only thing that will change Tehran’s behavior is “a threat to regime survival.”
Michael Hughes attends and covers the State Department’s Daily Press Briefings for nextooze.com
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