Another failure: Now what?

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton speaks to the media after two-day talks between Iran and world powers on Iran's nuclear program at the historical Ciragan Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011. Ashton said six-power talks with Iran over its nuclear program have ended without agreement because of disputes on the focus of future talks and the two sides have set no date for any further meeting.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

The collapse of another attempt at international outreach to Iran on Saturday has left world powers with few options except to wait — and hope that the bite of sanctions will persuade Tehran to reconsider its refusal to stop activities that could be harnessed to make nuclear weapons.

But their patience could be tested. While the U.S. and others say that Iran already is suffering from the wide range of financial and trade sanctions, travel bans and other penalties imposed by the U.N., the U.S., the EU and others, the Islamic Republic shows no sign of bending.

Uranium enrichment lies at the heart of the dispute.

Low-enriched uranium — at around 3.5 percent — can be used to fuel a reactor to generate electricity, which Iran says is the intention of its program. But if uranium is further enriched to around 90 percent purity, it can be used to develop a nuclear warhead.

Iran came to the Istanbul talks with six world powers Friday declaring it would not even consider freezing uranium enrichment — and left the negotiations Saturday repeating the same mantra. Throughout two days of hectic meetings, it stubbornly pushed demands it must have known were unacceptable to the six — a lifting of sanctions and acceptance of its enrichment program before any further discussion of its nuclear activities.

“Both these preconditions are not the way to proceed,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton declared — and added no new talks were planned.

Publicly, the U.S. and others nations concerned that Iran could turn its enrichment program toward making fissile warhead material say that troubles with enrichment have slowed that activity and left more time to persuade Iran to heed international concerns than thought just a year ago.

Israeli officials now talk of a three-year window — until 2014 — before Iran can make a bomb. That compares with projections of 2011 just three years ago.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told NBC’s “Today” show earlier this week that the new Israeli estimates are “very significant.” The delay, she said, “gives us more of a breathing space to try to work to prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Two outside forces could account for any Iranian problems in enriching uranium — the increasing weight of U.N. and other sanctions meant to choke off raw materials needed to make and maintain the program, and the apparent havoc caused by the mysterious Stuxnet computer malware, which experts think was created by Israel or the U.S.

“Sanctions have had an impact. There are signs that Iran’s nuclear program has slowed, so I think there is time and space for diplomacy,” a senior U.S. administration official said after the Istanbul talks collapsed. He asked for anonymity in exchange for discussing the delicate issue.

While there is no talk for now of U.N Security Council new sanctions past a fourth set in June that target Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, ballistic missiles and nuclear-related investments, there have been significant Western efforts to enforce present penalties.

Senior U.S. officials have been touring China, Japan, South Korea and the pro-western Arab nations to demand compliance with the U.N sanctions and the European Union, Canada, Australia and others have followed Washington’s example in imposing their own restrictions on trade, financial transactions and other relations with Iran.

A diplomat from a delegations that met with Iran in Istanbul told the AP Saturday that EU outsiders Switzerland and Norway would formally adopt the EU sanctions next week. He asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

On the cyber front, Iran has acknowledged that Stuxnet hit “a limited number of centrifuges,” saying its scientists discovered and neutralized the malware before it could cause any serious damage. The computer worm is assumed to have caused disruption of enrichment in November that temporarily crippled thousands of centrifuges at Natanz and experts say it could flare up again to do further damage.

Still there is no reason for complacency.

In a study shared this week with The Associated Press, the Federation of American Scientists notes impressive improvements in the performance of the Iranian machines that enrich uranium. The centrifuges are still underperforming but FAS says Iran last year appears to have increased their efficiency by 60 percent, giving it the technical capacity to produce enough material for a simple nuclear warhead in five months.

Few people think that Tehran is likely to provoke the world — and increase the likelihood of U.S. or Israeli attack — by kicking out International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and re-calibrating its centrifuges to make such a device.

Manufacturing nuclear warhead material is only one step in making a weapon, and Olli Heinonen, who retired late last year as the IAEA deputy director general in charge of the agency’s Iran file, calls the likelihood of such a “breakout scenario” a “suicidal mission” because of the likelihood of overwhelming international retribution.

Still, Iran seems determined to let nothing stop it from expanding enrichment, even starting a smaller program that is churning out material that can be turned into weapons-grade uranium much more quickly than its large stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

Neither “resolutions, sanctions, threats, computer virus nor even a military attack will stop uranium enrichment in Iran,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, declared as the talks began.

___

Christopher Torchia contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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10 Responses to "Another failure: Now what?"

  1. Jon  January 24, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    This is not entirely unlike the Israeli position on Palestinian matters. The Palestinians offer up concession after concession, and Israel tells them to shove it.

    Iran is offered concession after concession, and tells everyone to shove it.

    However, in the USA, what Israel is doing is diplomacy, and what Iran is doing, well, the two are somehow diametrically in opposition.

    Odd, that.

    Jon

    • woody188  January 24, 2011 at 11:52 pm

      The difference is Israel already has undeclared nuclear weapons and they are not a party to the non-proliferation treaty. Either they stole it from the USA or the USA gave it to them. It’s unclear which occurred. But they have had the Dimona reactor since the 1960’s.

      Oddly, the USA has now developed “mini-nukes” under the orders of the Junior Bush administration, and therefore is in violation of the same non-proliferation treaty to which they accuse Iran of being in violation. It’s really the ultimate in hypocrisy.

      • Carl Nemo  January 25, 2011 at 12:16 am

        Hi Woody,

        I thought I’d supply the Wiki link concerning Israel’s nuclear program.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_Israel

        Their final testing of their designs were done in collaboration with South Africa at a location in the Indian Ocean. There’s also rumors that they collaborated with the “Red Chinese” in terms of the science and engineering while allowing them to piggyback their tests in the Gobi desert. Interestingly the “Chinese Bomb” was first detonated in 1964 which is about the time that Israel was pressuring the U.S. to assist them acquiring the technology.

        Golda Meir tried to get JFK to cooperate with their program, but he would have none of it and possibly that too led to his demise as President.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_Israel

        While Iran will struggle to make a simple fission weapon for starters not including a viable delivery system to transport such, the creation of a thermonuclear hydrogen weapon is of another order. Israel has hydrogen based fusion weaponry.

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Carl Nemo  January 25, 2011 at 12:16 am

          My apologies for the double link post.

          Carl Nemo **==

          • Carl Nemo  January 25, 2011 at 12:58 am

            This post is meaningless since it pertains to one that has two duplicate links posted that’s awaiting moderation. If more than one link is posted it automatically goes to moderation. It’s a reply to your post Woody.

            Carl Nemo **==

  2. Carl Nemo  January 24, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    CIA=Keystone Cops or what…?!

    Here’s a link to the Guardian UK concerning how our CIA flubbed up in 2006 possibly with deadly consequences for the world at large.

    They ‘accidently’ passed on blueprints to Iran for making a nuclear wep with an intentional ‘flaw’ in the design. Unfortunately bright weaponeers can spot such intentional flaws in an instant and that’s what happened.

    So time goes on and all we hear is Israel’s endless kvetching about Iran getting a bomb that can be launched via an intermediate range missile which Iran has the capability.

    We did the same is Pakistan during the Reagan/H.W. Bush era via A.K Khan’s nuclear network of spies and contacts. In essence we are arming people in order to create potential enemies of international consequence, then using the engineered crises to bleed U.S. taxpayers white in order to contain the very grief created by our everso cunning leadership. I call this international social psychodrama; I.E., a deadly script written by deranged mattoids in one of the CIA’s sub basements all to our hazard a nation and world at large.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2006/jan/05/energy.g2

    We shouldn’t be passing any plans for nukes with intentional flaws or otherwise to rogue, unstable regimes…period!

    I’m sure if we dug deeply concerning N. Korea’s nuclear program we’d find out that somehow in some way we’ve helped enhance their program too with Secretary Gates recently whining that the North is becoming a direct threat to the U.S. since they have missile capabilities that could reach Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the West coast.

    We’ve met the enemy folks and he is us via our criminally disposed, irresponsible, now “rogue” leadership. We have madmen and women at the helm of state and they seemingly want to commit national seppuku on our dime and time. Fie on them all…! : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Carl Nemo  January 24, 2011 at 9:40 pm

      Re: paragraph 5…”via A.K Khan’s nuclear network of spies and contacts” …extract from post

      should read: A.Q. Khan. My apologies.

      http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Pakistan/AQKhan.html

      Note: He’s given credit as the “Father of the Pakistani Bomb”. Yes, but with help from our ever-scheming leadership in D.C.

      He’s even linked with giving technical aid for N. Korea’s program too. Yep, Pakistan is truly our ally as long as we grease their leaderhip’s palms to the tune of 10 billion dollars over the past decade. SOS Clinton recently requested that we give them another 2 billion for ‘military aid’ over the next five years. Evidently it was no problem for Congress to authorize such continued deadly nonsense. Say what!

      Carl Nemo **==

  3. Almandine  January 25, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Quit calling it “leadership” Carl – rogue or otherwise. Serious minds wouldn’t even be in this position.

  4. Carl Nemo  January 25, 2011 at 2:32 am

    I often mention that I analyze photo’s supplied with an article. Ms. Ashton as pictured looks a bit peaked by my standards. She has the title of European Union Foreign Policy Chief. Wow, some title for sure…! / : |

    So visualize this woman along with her Euro counterparts and a host of other pencil necked, soft-minded Westerners sitting across the table from a bunch of male Iranian fanatics with ‘five o’clock shadows’ and a mindset that’s totally anathema to Western interests.

    They probably have a hard time not laughing in the faces of these wimps led by women. Iranians have “fire in the belly” and a mission that will not be compromised by sanctions on the part of the West. They also don’t hold women in high esteem within their culture, but simply that of homemakers and the function of bearing children. That’s it…!

    We simply don’t get it or if we do the only thing that motivates these perennially failed negotiations are the beaucoup $$ to be made in the eyes of the MIC as a result of confrontation with Iran. These talks are all preliminary ‘window dressing’ for seemingly an inevitable war which will destabilize the West mightily so.

    What Iran needs to see across the so-called ‘bargaining table’ are some tough, no-neck guys with similar beard growth, beetle browed, supported by sharp intellects and a heavy set of cajones when dealing with these neolithic types with a medieval mindset concerning Allah, Jihad or any other such quaint nonsense in these possible end times for world civlization as we know it; not the likes of Ms. ‘Euro’ Ashton along with Hillary & Co. If this sounds sexist…tough! It’s the world of real politik…nice guys/gals finish last when dealing with fanatical male neoliths….period!

    Carl Nemo **==

  5. Jon  January 25, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Recall also that of the “Axis of Evil”, as declared by W. Bush, included three countries, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.

    Iraq did not have nuclear weapons (or any WMD, really) and got invaded.

    North Korea has nukes. Maybe fizzly little ones, but nukes nonetheless. North Korea did not get invaded.

    If I were Iran, I’d be scampering around after a nuke or two myself.

    Jon

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