Grave concern was voiced in Jerusalem over the upbeat accounts appearing Thursday, Feb. 28 of the six-power talks with Iran which ended Wednesday in Almati, Kazakhstan. A Western diplomat described the nuclear talks as “more constructive and positive than in the past.” For the first time, said the diplomat, “they were really focusing on the proposal on the table” although he admitted that Iran’s willingness to negotiate seriously will not become clear until an April meeting.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi chimed in buoyantly that the talks had reached “a turning point” this week and “a breakthrough was within reach.”
Intelligence sources following the Kazakhstan negotiations told debkafile that all this optimism is far from representing the true content of the session and no practical discussion took place on “proposals on the table.” The participants did not delude themselves that the next round of nuclear talks with Iran scheduled for April would achieve any more progress on the disposal of Iran’s nuclear program than the current session. In any case, Tehran is determined not to budge from its hard and fast position on this issue – if ever – before the Iranian presidential election in the coming June.
The sudden outburst of Western-Iranian optimism is seen in Jerusalem as part of a US administration effort to soften Israel’s resistance to the continued operation of the underground plant at Fordo which is turning out 20-percent enriched uranium that is easily converted to weapons grade material.
A softer Israeli approach would lighten the nuclear cloud hanging over the meetings Barack Obama is scheduled to hold with Israeli leaders during his visit to Jerusalem on March 20.
Israel’s categorical demand is for the immediate closure of the Fordo plant.
But this is not what the US delegation put before the Iranian negotiators in Kazakhstan. Instead of demanding the plant’s shutdown, the American proposal was for Iran to suspend 20 percent uranium enrichment in a way that “constrains the ability to quickly resume operations” there.
This is a major letdown for Israel’s expectations and for Binyamin Netanyahu. No wonder the Iranian foreign minister was upbeat.