The European Union and Iran announced Wednesday that the talks on the technical aspects of the interim nuclear accord with the six powers – broken off in Vienna Friday Dec. 13 – would be resumed in Geneva Thursday, Dec. 19. This is a desperate attempt to enliven the dying momentum of nuclear diplomacy. Two days were assigned to this meeting, which debkafile reports it is being convened to camouflage three untoward developments:
1. Iran has repudiated the Geneva nuclear deal and now maintains that it was never a real accord. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afgham put it this way: “There is no treaty and no pact, only a statement of intent.”
This statement galvanized Secretary of State John Kerry to put in an urgent call to Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, at the end of which both pledged their commitment to the document solemnly signed in Geneva on Nov. 24.
2. Sunday, the journal Kayan, the mouthpiece of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said this in an editorial: “The six-month period of the accord is meaningless; a final agreement might even take 20 years to negotiate.”
Clearly, the Iranians are reverting to their old tactics of talks for the sake of more talks.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who spent the week making the rounds of European capitals, said: “Now we have to talk about reviving the talks on modalities.”
In other words, the nuclear negotiations were still stuck at the stage of discussing how to proceed and nowhere near getting down to substantive issues.
3. Our sources note that over and above Tehran’s predisposition to foot-dragging, another major snag looms large: The Geneva accord never fixed a starting date for the six-month nuclear freeze and negotiating period on a comprehensive agreement, leaving it to the technical teams to discuss.
This left the door open for Tehran to slow the technical discussions down to a crawl, before there is any sign of progress – a lacuna spotted by Kayhan when it referred to "20 years" of negotiations. Iran can meanwhile cash in on diplomatic and economic rewards.
It was therefore not surprising to hear from Washington Wednesday that the original elation generated by President Barack Obama and John Kerry over the Geneva deal had made way for gloom and pessimism.
Senior administration officials, including Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led the American team of negotiators in Geneva, were quoted by US media as saying they were “very skeptical” about the outcome of further talks with the Iranians.
They were coming to realize that without unacceptable concessions on both sides, the American and the Iranian, there was no way that the ambitious US venture into nuclear diplomacy would get anywhere.