Thursday, July 17, 2008

Freeze on Freeze

The road to normalize relations with Iran starts this Saturday when State Department’s top diplomat, William Burns, meets with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

The next move in the new diplomatic roadmap is freeze on freeze, as outlined by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. For a period of six weeks, preliminary negotiations with Iran takes place, with US representative present at the negotiating table. During this period, Iran will keep or “freeze” uranium enrichment activities at its current level, while the UN do the same, keeping or “freezing” sanctions as is. If you believe this six-week period will blur previous Bush administration’s policy on suspension before negotiations, you are right.

At the end of the six-week period, Iran is expected to formally suspend all its uranium enrichment activates (closing Natanz temporarily) and the UN will suspend its sanctions against Iran. The double suspension period lasts until the two sides come to a final agreement: Iran getting acceptable economic incentives and normalization of relations with the US in return for not enriching uranium inside Iran, getting enriched uranium for nuclear reactors from an international consortium.

To sweeten the deal, US will not wait for final negotiations on normalizations of relations with Iran and will open an interests section, staffed with US diplomats, in Tehran next month.

If the roadmap is executed as planned, as expected, we can say with high confidence that the military option is finally off the table.

UPDATE: Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki welcomed US involvement in the nuclear talks, hoping the US presence would produce positive developments.

“We hope that the meeting in Geneva on Saturday will produce positive developments on the ground,” Mottaki, on a visit to Syria, told the reporters in Damascus.

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