On Sunday we asked in a Video Analysis if there was trouble ahead in Iran’s nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers, noting Tehran’s criticism — including that of the Supreme Leader — of US negotiator Wendy Sherman.
We assessed that some in the regime are getting nervous and frustrated at what they see as a US retreat — after saying two weeks ago that the high-level talks in Geneva were “very useful” — from consideration of Iran’s core demands.
Weekend developments bolstered that analysis, with Tehran re-drawing the lines for technical discussions this week and the next round of high-level negotiations in Geneva on November 7-8.
Two of the demands have long been established: Iran must have its recognition of its right to enrich uranium for a civilian nuclear program, and there must be a start to removal of US-led sanctions.
With President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif remaining diplomatically quiet, leading MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi set out a third demand this weekend.
“The enrichment plant at Fordoo is one of Iran’s red lines and will definitely not be closed.”
Fordoo was announced in 2009. Its construction in part was for security — as it is in a mountainside, it is less susceptible that Iran’s initial plant at Natanz to military attack.
But just as significant is its role in Iran’s development of a program for enrichment to uranium to 20% — still a level for civilian use, but with the potential of being enriched further to military-grade fuel.
The US has long insisted publicly that Fordoo must be shut permanently. Privately, however, there were signs at high-level talks in the spring that a six-month moratorium on production.
In Geneva this month, Iran — according to one of its officials — said it would suspend the 20% enrichment, converting Fordoo to a research facility. However, Foreign Minister Zarif soon denied that the official’s statement was correct.
Unnamed Western diplomats then jumped in last week. They told an accommodating journalist that Iran had made no important proposals over the plant. Their implication was made clear by the Associated Press: Shut Fordoo.
And so, as the technical experts convene this week, the question arises: is this public sparring merely a jockeying for position by both sides?
Or have Iran and the West retreated from their initial moves toward agreement at Geneva?