Iran’s foreign minister said he believed it was unlikely a final-status agreement would be reached with the West over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program within the time frame that has been allotted in the negotiations.
“The chances that we will come to final understandings within the four months remaining are low,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying on Saturday.
Zarif added that even if the parties come to a deal by the November deadline, they would still need more time to flesh out the fine print.
The foreign minister said the talks could lead to “quick results” if the P5+1 powers – the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany – display the necessary will. He said that in recent months, the discussions have proceeded carefully, although there has been progress.
In July, Iran and the six powers agreed to extend the talks after both sides were unable to reach an agreement. The main dispute centered on the question of the extent to which Iran would be permitted to enrich uranium.
The powers demanded the Islamic Republic reduce the number of centrifuges to a symbolic few, while the Iranians countered with a proposal to increase the number of centrifuges and to subject them under international inspection.
This past Wednesday, Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying that Washington has become increasingly hostile to Iran.
“There’s no point in engaging in direct negotiations with Washington,” he said.
The moderate camp, led by President Hassan Rouhani, believes Iran must reach an agreement immediately, particularly in order to boost the Iranian economy. The West has shown greater interest in investing in the Iranian economy, as evidenced by the 30 percent increase in oil exports.
“Cowards, go to hell,” Rouhani said of the conservatives in Iran, this during the same week in which Iran’s central bank received the final payment of funds that were frozen – $500 million, out of a total of $4.2b.
Another matter on the agenda that remains to be dealt with is regional dilemmas, particularly the emergence of the Islamic State. Military analysts believe that the organization is setting its sights on Iran.
“The real goal of Islamic State is to get to Iran,” wrote the Iraqi military analyst, Said Bazuka. “They misled the Iraqi military, making it think that it was on its way to Baghdad, but they turned toward Irbil since their real destination from the start has always been Khankin, near the eastern border with Iran. Islamic State’s real target is Iran, and the Mojahedin e-Khalq [an opposition group dedicated to the overthrow of the Islamic Republic] are waiting to join Islamic State once they enter Iran.”
In light of this analysis, the Iranians are becoming increasingly worried about the looming threat posed by Islamic State.
Meanwhile, UN nuclear watchdog chief Yukiya Amano will visit Iran on Sunday in an apparent attempt to push for progress in a long-running investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Tehran.
Amano’s trip comes ahead of an August 25 deadline for Iran to provide some information relevant to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inquiry into what it calls the possible military dimensions of the country’s disputed nuclear program.
Iran dismisses Western accusations that it has been working to develop a capability to assemble atomic weapons.
The visit – announced by the IAEA in Vienna on Friday – will be Amano’s first to Iran this year and the third since 2012.
Western officials say Iranian clarifications of the IAEA’s concerns would also advance efforts by six world powers to negotiate an end to a decade-old standoff over Tehran’s atomic activities, suggesting some sanctions relief may depend on it.
With major gaps remaining over the permissible future scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, the talks between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, China, Britain and Russia were extended to November 24 during mid-July talks.
Iran says it is enriching uranium to generate electricity, and not to accumulate fissile material for a potential atomic bomb, as the West suspects.
Tehran rejects such suspicions as based on false and fabricated information from its enemies but has promised, since pragmatist Rouhani became president in mid- 2013, to work with the Vienna-based UN agency to clear them up.
Under a phased cooperation pact hammered out late last year, an attempt to jump-start the long-stalled IAEA investigation, Iran agreed in May to implement five nuclear transparency measures by August 25, two of which directly dealt with the nuclear bomb inquiry.
However, so far there have been no public indications of any movement by Iran on the agreed steps.
A brief statement issued by the UN agency on Friday said, without elaborating: “The director general of the IAEA...
will visit Iran for meetings on August 17 with Iranian leaders and senior officials.
The visit is part of the efforts to advance dialogue and cooperation between the agency and Iran.”
Diplomatic sources told Reuters in late July that the IAEA – which is tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the world – was concerned about Iran’s lack of engagement with the investigation.
They said there was still time for Iran to meet its commitments, noting Tehran had occasionally waited until the last minute to make concessions in the past.
But the slow pace of cooperation may reinforce an impression in the West about continuing Iranian reluctance to give the IAEA the information and access to sites and people that it says it needs for its investigation.
“Unless Iran addresses the IAEA’s concerns...the chance is reduced of successfully negotiating a long-term nuclear agreement between the [six powers] and Iran,” the Institute for Science and International Security think-tank said this month.
After years of what the West saw as Iranian stonewalling, Iran as a first step in May gave the IAEA information it had requested about its reasons for developing exploding-bridgewire detonators.
These can be used to set off an atomic explosive device but Iran says they are for civilian use.
Tehran agreed to clarify two other issues by late August – concerning alleged work on explosives and computer studies related to calculating nuclear explosive yields.
They were among 12 specific areas listed in an IAEA report issued in 2011 with a trove of intelligence indicating a concerted weapons program that was halted in 2003 – when Iran came under increased international pressure. The intelligence also suggested some activities may later have resumed.