A senior official in Tokyo announced Wednesday, May 23, that the Japanese government will seek parliamentary approval for a bill allowing Japanese firms to insure tankers carrying Iranian oil to Asia if European insurers refused to do so. The new law would apply to 16 Iranian tankers in the first stage.
This decision means that any intention to stiffen the oil embargo against Iran, as Israel had expected, was virtually voided even before the resumed nuclear talks ended between the six powers and Iran in Baghdad. Instead of taking place under the shadow of tougher sanctions, the oil embargo had begun falling apart and a major disincentive for Iran to continue its drive for a nuclear bomb was fading.
Still, without any real grounds, European coordinator Catherine Ashton and IAEA head Yukiya Amano were openly optimistic about the outcome of the current round of talks. In this, they backed US President Barack Obama’s expectation of successful negotiations with Iran and his advocacy of continuing diplomacy in contrast to his earlier remarks this month that the window for negotiations was closing.
By spreading good cheer, Ashton and Amano obscured the real state of play with Iran. Amano said Tuesday that a deal for inspections would soon be signed with Iran although he didn’t know when. Now it appears that there was no deal.
And all Ashton’s spokesman would say was, "I am not going to go into the details of what we are proposing, but of course we are putting proposals on the table that are of interest to Iran."
Israeli ministers who urged the world powers to make tough demands of Iran and impose stiff penalties were clearly talking through their hats. Japan is not alone in helping Iran beat the toughest sanction, the embargo on its oil exports, India and Turkey were in there first. They were all essentially signaling Tehran that its inflexibility in negotiations would not rate serious punishment because some of the threatened sanctions are no longer workable.
No comment was forthcoming from US official sources on the developments around the Baghdad talks Wednesday. Other American sources close to the Obama administration, such as Dennis Ross, the president’s former adviser on Iran, warned Tuesday, May 22, on the eve of the resumed talks not to expect any breakthrough or dramatic progress. R
oss stressed that Tehran would get no sanctions relief until uranium enrichment is discontinued – and not only the 20-percent grade but lower levels too.
Russia and the UK, alone of the powers (the others are the US, France, Germany, China) represented in Baghdad, spoke openly about the possible failure of the meeting and the outbreak of war with Iran in consequence.
The Russians again warned Tehran that the West is using the screen of negotiations for a conspiracy to set a military trap. In London, just before the talks began, British ministers were warned of their likely breakdown and were reported to have prepared “contingency plans” for a possible conflict between Israel and Iran.
Some sources reported that under discussion was British military and diplomatic aid to Israel, in particular the deployment of Royal Navy vessels on Israel’s coast.