'Little chance of deal in nuclear talks with Tehran'

Former White House adviser says Iran exercising constraints on program to avoid sanctions, attack before presidential elections.

Participants sit at a table during talks on Iran (photo credit: REUTERS/Stanislav Filippov)
Participants sit at a table during talks on Iran
(photo credit: REUTERS/Stanislav Filippov)
WASHINGTON – A former senior White House adviser said Monday that he doesn’t expect a breakthrough in upcoming talks with Tehran and certainly no deal reached before Iranian presidential elections in June.
Gary Samore, until recently the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, predicted that “ups and downs and differences and frustrations are going to continue for the foreseeable future” in world powers’ negotiations with Iran.
At the same time, Samore observed that the Iranians are slowing down aspects of their nuclear program for the time being.
“Even if there isn’t a formal deal, I do think the Iranians are exercising some constraints on their program for political reasons,” said Samore, who was speaking at the Brookings Institution.
He assessed that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was being careful not to come near the red line of advanced uranium enrichment that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu laid down at the UN in the fall, since he doesn’t want to trigger more sanctions or a military attack before the elections are held.
In the context of Iran’s careful political calculations and what Samore described as “a fundamental disconnect” between Tehran and world power negotiators, the former White House official said it would be “unrealistic to expect there would be some kind of breakthrough in these talks” at the end of the week.
Samore also said he didn’t think a military attack would be an impossible scenario so long as talks were going on. Instead, he suggested that more important than what’s happening at the negotiating table in determining a strike would be the situation on the ground.
Samore was joined at Brookings by Javier Solana, former foreign policy chief for the European Union and the lead negotiator with Iran from 2003 to 2009 on behalf of the so-called P5+1 of the US, France, the UK, Germany, Russia and China.
Solana maintained that dealing with Syria was essential to getting results on Iran’s nuclear program since the two countries are deep allies.
“Without solving that problem, it will be very difficult to get the negotiations moving,” said Solana, who pointed to the importance of pressuring Russia to exercise leverage on Damascus.
Solana warned that the “level of consistency and coherence of the P5+1 is diminishing” in part because of the different goals regarding Syria that the member countries now have.