The West just blew its latest chance of reining in Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
Iranian officials expressed willingness to comply with some of the major demands being made by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the “P5+1” (the permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). But, evidently, these countries just could not take “yes” for an answer. By refusing to ease sanctions on Iran in any meaningful way, the P5+1 offered no meaningful reciprocity in return for Iranian compliance.
The P5+1's attitude of “take but not give” directly led to the failure of the talks. And by derailing the possibility of a deal with Tehran, these global powers are essentially helping Iran stockpile even more enriched uranium.
The hawks in the West who don't seem to want to ease sanctions are helping the hawks in Iran who want to continue gathering more and more enriched uranium, which might give them a nuclear weapon option in the future. Deadlock rewards the hawks on both sides, and increases the chance of armed conflict in the Middle East.
There were two main demands being made of Iran going into the latest round of talks: that it must halt enriching uranium to 20 percent (a level closer to weapons-grade), and that it must shutter its highly secretive Fordow enrichment facility.
The Iranians offered as an initial gesture to give UN inspectors access to the Parchin military base, where the International Atomic Energy Agency believes Iran may have done nuclear-weapons related work in the 1990s. Iranian officials have also conveyed a willingness to compromise on the 20 percent enrichment issue, given the right incentives.
Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, serves as a scientific consultant for the Federation of American Scientists.
The above article was published in csmonitor.com on May 25th, 2012 (01:56 p.m.).