A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has arrived in Tehran for talks that promise to start a process, which could help ease tensions between Iran and the West.
The IAEA hopes to achieve some “real results,” during the two-day talks, the team's leader Herman Nackaerts, the Deputy Director of the global body, said ahead of his departure to Tehran. “We hope to have a couple of good and constructive days in Tehran.”
Monday's talks have begun at a time when both sides may be willing to take a breather during the course of their on-going covert war and concerted drive for one-upmanship.
On Sunday, Iran announced that it was suspending oil exports to Britain and France — two countries which have been at the forefront of targeting Syrian President, Bashar Al Assad, Iran's key ally in the Levant.
The Iranian decision is being mainly measured for its psychological value, rather than its commercial bite. While it does not significantly hurt the two countries — with Britain importing only 1 per cent of its energy requirements from Iran, and France 3 per cent — it does add credence to Iran's threat that it could, in a calibrated manner, cut-off oil supplies to an unprepared European Union, if it does not quickly reverse its decision of boycotting Iranian oil from July this year. Despite facing a steep economic downturn, the EU had announced on January 23 that in a bid to pressurise Iran over its nuclear programme, it would look for alternative suppliers, and stop buying Iranian oil from July.
On Wednesday, Iran introduced domestically built nuclear fuel plates inside the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), marking a technological advancement that has been scaled only by a handful of countries. Iran had run out of the 20 per cent enriched fuel that had been imported for this reactor, used for making isotopes that are required for the treatment of cancer.
But amid the tough talk, which has included the threat of waging war against Iran, tangible steps have been taken, that promise to ease the seemingly spiralling tensions between the two adversaries. Nuclear talks between Iran and the six global powers — United States, Russia,
China, France, Britain and Germany — could well resume in the not-too-distant future.
On Wednesday, Saeed Jalili, Iran's top negotiator on the nuclear issue had written to the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashtonexpressing an urgency to resume talks, stalled since January 2011. Mr. Jalili proposed to “resume our talks in order to take fundamental steps for sustainable cooperation in the earliest possibility in a mutually agreed venue and time”. He said that Iran's “new initiatives in this round of talks could open a positive perspective for our negotiation”.
Departing from the phase of sabre rattling, the Obama administration also appeared to have imparted a tone of sobriety in making its assessment of Iran's nuclear capabilities. James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, said on Thursday, at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that, despite acquiring some skills, Iran has remained so far, undecided about pursuing atomic weapons. In a separate testimony, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency, observed that Iran has the technical, scientific and industrial capability to “eventually” produce atomic weapons.
While the Iranians have not spelled out in any detail their roadmap for defusing nuclear tensions, some analysts, drawing on the writings of some Iranian scholars, are of the view that Tehran appeared inclined to consider Russia's “step-by-step” proposal. According to the Russian plan, sanctions against Iran would be dismantled incrementally, as it addresses an ascending list of demands of the IAEA. In last August, Iran had agreed to work within the framework of the Russian proposal. “The Islamic Republic of Iran has positively received Russia's idea for a step-by-step solution and is ready to prepare suggestions for cooperation in the nuclear sphere,” read the official statement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after he had met Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev.