Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Failure in Moscow

By Nader Uskowi

Moscow Talks between Iran and the six major powers ended in failure today. The two sides, after seven rounds of talks in the past four years, could not even work out a minor technical agreement, even though the host Russia was desperate to show some progress. At the end, they decided to hold a low-level meeting in Istanbul on 3 July to “focus purely on technical details rather than the broader political issues,” as EU’s Catherine Ashton said.

The Iranian delegation came to Moscow determined not to give an inch on enrichment issue. The Iranian thinking behind such determination can be summarized as follow:
  • The U.S. has lost its war in Iraq and is losing in Afghanistan. It is in no shape to start another conflict with Iran.
  • Israel is unable to attack Iran without active support from the Americans.
  • The EU is in the midst of a financial crisis and cannot afford to worsen or prolong the crisis through a conflict in the Persian Gulf.
  • The West cannot afford to keep the Iranian crude out of the market for long and will have to ease or scrap the oil embargo sooner than later.
  • Russia and China would veto any action against Iran at the UN and the latter will keep purchasing the Iranian crude.
  • Then why compromise now, the thinking goes. If Iran stands firm on its demand of continuing to enrich uranium even at 20-percent purity, the West will have no choice but to give in by this summer, the height of the US presidential campaign, and ease or lift the sanctions, at least the upcoming oil embargo.
  • The West will be unable to stop Iran’s nuclear program even if it wanted to and did make the bomb.

The problem with such thinking is not the accuracy or lack of any of these points. The danger inherent in such thinking, however, is for the Iranian leaders to overplay their hands, a tendency they have demonstrated over the years, like in the hostage crisis, the last years of war with Iraq and now going nuclear.

What if the world could survive without the Iranian crude, what if taking hard line against Iran could help both candidates during the US presidential campaign, what if Israel really sees a nuclear Iran as an ‘existential’ threat, what if the US would have more firepower available after the end of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan… The Iranian leadership cannot afford to construct the best-case scenario and starts believing it in its entirety. There are not-so-well scenarios as well where Iran could suffer economic disaster or gets involved in a prolonged conflict, with all the uncertainties they would create for the country and its leadership.

The more prudent course of action is to compromise on some part of the enrichment program, like the 20-percent variety. After all, it was originally Ahmadinejad’s own proposal to forego the 20-percent enrichment through a uranium fuel swap agreement with the West, a proposal that didn't go well with the hardliners in the West and especially in Iran.

For the West, there is also the danger of overplaying its own hands. In the current political atmosphere in Iran, the acceptance by the senior leadership of the halt to 20-percent enrichment, closure of Fordo plant and signing the IAEA additional protocol without lifting of all sanctions would be simply a political suicide. The settlement of the decade-old dispute would require the end of all sanctions.


Unknown said...

Great review Nader.
The west has already planned for the worst case scenario which is that:
1. by July they are ready for total old embargo
2. The oil market has already adjusted to the threat of total oil embargo of Iran with replacement oil from Libya and Saudi Arabia coming on line in July.
3. Iran can go enriching with the worst being that they have a bomb that they can never use, without risking total nuclear war with the USA.

Iran in the other hand trying to approach the negotiations with pure logic without any attention to the big picture.
Iran is acting as if it was actually a superpower, which it isn't.
Just because the Iranian negotiators and their superiors are convinced of the logical validity of their own arguments, that doesn't make them right or practical.
Just because Iran has the right to enrich doesn't mean the world is going to look at that positively and ignore the war rhetoric imitating from Iran towards Israel.

Iran's only leverage is give up any and all nuclear ambition for the sake of economic prosperity and the regime's self preservation.

Nader Uskowi said...

Thanks, as always. Would you email me so I can have your email address. nuskowi@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

OR--- it could be the view of the Iranian regime that being perceived as being forced to compromise is a serious threat to their ability to sustain their regime and the adverse consequences of failing to reach agreement will fall mainly on the Iranian citizenry and can be blamed on foreign hostility.

Mark Pyruz said...

Nader, the Iranians are willing to compromise, per the 2010 Tehran Declaration. It is we Americans that are hamstrung by domestic politics and a powerful foreign lobby group.

The good news is more talks are scheduled for the future.

Let's hope an Obama victory in '12 will embolden the executive branch beyond the grip that that foreign lobby group holds on the U.S. legislative branch, and that something-anything-of a Nixon to China moment can be achieved with the Iranians during Obama's second term. After all, it is in America's and the West's best interests to attain rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.

Anonymous said...

this is not about justice or something; this is about the question whether the Iranian regime is willing to integrate itself within the global order; there is no other order to live in; so it does not matter if you don't like the current order; the regime acts as if it can choose to go somewhere else if it is not accepted here on its own terms; that wont happen; so at the end the regime will be brought down; the Iranian people will have to pay the price for the morons who have currently hijacked the country

Anonymous said...

The following report is much more informative and especially objective and unbiased, not putting all the blame on Iran:


Some interesting excerpts:

"Iran has rejected the West demand, dubbed "stop, shut, and ship," referring to stopping 19.75 percent enrichment, shutting the Fordow enrichment facility near Qom, and shipping out Iran's stockpile of 19.75-percent enriched uranium. The West has also demanded that Iran abide by the UNSC resolutions issued against Iran, essentially saying that Iran must suspend its entire nuclear program."

"In return for its "stop, shut, ship" proposal, the West has offered only spare parts for the old civilian aircraft that Iran purchased from the West long ago, supply fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, and cooperation in the area of nuclear safety."

"ISNA quoted an Iranian diplomat as saying, "The outlook of the P5+1 demands must become clear. We need to know at the beginning what they want by the end of the negotiations because Iran does not trust the P5+1 to commit itself to its promises. The necessary condition for [taking] mutual steps [by both sides] is that the steps both sides [are willing to take] become very clear. If cooperation [between the two sides] is to begin, what guarantees are there that they will not end up with the same fate as before?" He was referring to the fact that Iran suspended its entire nuclear program from October 2003 to August 2005, but received nothing in return from Britain, France, and Germany, with which its had negotiated the suspension."

ishakpemadang said...

the failure is due to the 6th power. actually it was not P5+1 negotiated with IR Iran. It was P5+1+1 negotiated with IR Iran and the last 1 hold the final decision.Everything must be refer to the last 1.

Anonymous said...

This anti Iranian regime started its life on a anti Western and particularly anti American agenda.
If they drop that agenda it will mean the end of the regime.
Their whole front line is unfolding in Syria and that is why they are investing so heavily on Assad.
By the demise of Assad the Islamic regime will lose its bases in Syria and Lebanon.Because the Lebanese will move against Hezbollah due to the lack of a future Syrian intervention.
The oil embargo against the regime will hurt the Iranian people but the pain will bring only gain in the long run for the Iranian people because the regime will not be able to sustain itself and will cause uprising and a possible implosion of the regime.
For those who are the supporters of the regime and claim that I am dreaming,wait and see who's proven correct.

Nader Uskowi said...


Here I tried to analyze the Iranian viewpoint, offering seven reasons as to why they believe they have the upper hand and have no need to compromise. This viewpoint, this understanding of the situation, plus the sharp turn to the right on politics (especially after the elections of the Ninth Majlis), have created an atmosphere in Tehran that is not conducive to compromise, much different that the 2010 situation you have referenced in your comment (their readings of the Iraqi and Afghan situation and the Euro crisis…). My concern is for them to rely too much on their reading of the situation, and overplay their hands (and unfortunately they are good at that). I am very concerned.

As for the US politics, you have a good grip and there is a danger of them overplaying their hands as well.

Anonymous said...

Shtting down of fordo nener never possible.

we shutdown fordo which is very expensive constructed and safe against air´aatach, they send their bomber.

Anonymous said...

Iran is not facing a a "total oil embargo" this year. It stands to lose about one-half of its exports or more, as the EU bans Iranian crude, and Asia imports less. At the same time, Iran's oil industry is threatened by natural declines in old oil fields. These need foreign investment and new oil recovery technology more than ever. Here are some links you may find helpful:




Anonymous said...

@Mathew M Reed

oil embarego is a blessing for iran, they are learniung to live without or less oil export.
means you must change your economy and make export industry.
Dependency from oil is the greatest obstacle for industrialistation

by the weay I donot believe any country can replace iranian oil.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:33 AM

For those who are the supporters of the regime and claim that I am dreaming, wait and see who's proven correct.

I'm not a supporter of the regime, but you are dreaming. Need I remind you that Iraq was under an international oil embargo in Saddam Hussein's era? It was hoped that the oil embargo would deprive Saddam's regime of oil revenues and motivate the Iraqis to overthrow them. It didn't work and certainly, it won't work against the Iranian regime. If you think I'm dreaming, just you wait and see.

Unknown said...

I stand corrected mathew, total oil embargo is indeed a stretch.
Nonetheless, Europe, with a few exceptions (ie Greece) is progressing towards a total weaning of its industries from Iranian oil. This would reomve any economic leverage directed at them in their future dealings with Iran.

With the demand for oil tampared by the global econmic slowdown, eliminating a large portion of Iranian oil from the market is less of a problem than it would have been a few years back, or a few years from now.

Iran, by being intransigent and argumentative, is playing russian roulette with its ecomnoy.

Leopersica said...

during the Iraq-Iran war there was a moment we all thought our national pride has been restored Iraqi forces were out of the country we had captured Faw Iraq was on brink of losing its second largest city Basra ,it was time to end the war ,but the leadership thought its time to push more ,big mistake !in a matter of months a moment of truth came when Iranians found themselves fighting US warships and then IR655....
Tehran declaration was Iran's Faw moment.
Iranian Administration knows this pretty well they knew that with Tehran's declaration they had in reality raised the threshold of acceptance from 4% to 20%.

Judging on the announcements made by the Ahmadinejad camp in their news outlet IRAN I can say that the presidential camp hoped a successful Baghdad meeting would pave the way for a real normalization of relationships but the other side is still making the same mistake they did after they captured Faw they think its time to push ,big mistake once more people like keyhans shariatmadari are advocating further pushs, insisting on Iran's logical validity of NPT arguments I agree with Jabbar 100%, this does not make them right or practical.they are just making the same mistake they did in 1986.

lets not forget that Ahmadinejad is on his last year in office he will not be able to make radical changes with maturization times more than 12 months.
Obama On the other hand is in the Election year this will limit the concessions he can offer to the Iranians.
once again the chances of Normalizing relations between US and Iran is locked in Internal politics and I do not see technical talks in Istanbul as good news.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:44 PM
Once again it's you, "I'm not supporter of this regime" nonsense.
If you lived in Iran (which I doubt)you would notice the price of bread 3000 toman,meat 45000 toman etc etc...
People can't afford to eat don't have jobs,the economy in ruins with 75 million people wondering what to do next.The country being run by a bunch of religious nuts and you say you don't support the regime. Then who do you support then,Mousavi?

I will wait and see and prove to people like you who is right.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:35 PM.......Over 80 per cent exports from Iran is oil.
And since banks don't do transactions with Iran and Iran even imported shovels from China. Where in your so called logic is that good for Iran?
Good for mullahs and the IRGC maybe but not good for the Iranian workers which have been laid off because of Chinese imports.
Chinese imports are destroying the Iranian industrial manufacturing industry.
This regime is selling Iran wholesale to China.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous, who says the "oil embargo is a blessing for Iran" and that no country can replace Iranian oil:

1)It would be wise for all oil exporting countries to diversify away from hydrocarbons. But no country can do that overnight. And Iran certainly won't soon. In the case of Iran, we're talking about losing tens of billions of dollars every month. Also consider how much could be lost if old fields decline before a nuclear settlement is reached. Because the country doesn't have the capital or the technology, today's losses may actually haunt the nation for years. The regime will rely on oil for the foreseeable future. The question is: How much?

2) Countries are replacing Iranian oil as we speak. US production is up; so is Canadian production. The Saudis are pumping 1.5 million barrels a day more now than they did a year ago. They still maintain about 1.5 million b/d in spare capacity. Meanwhile, Libya has returned to the market rapidly. And export bottlenecks that hindered Iraqi exports for so long are disappearing.

Today the International Energy Agency thinks Iranian crude exports have already fallen 1 million b/d. And what have prices done in the past month? They've fallen $40 since this year's high of $128 seen in March. Prices are dropping even though traders are counting on cuts to Iranian exports and negotiations are going nowhere. That says a lot about how "important" Iranian crude is to a global economy that's still finding its footing after the recession.

Anonymous said...

@Mathew M Reed
Iran does not have capital und Technpoligie to develop the oil field ?

only 1 Example, 1-2 years ago the western country refused to sell
Benzin to iran.
noe iran is chjanged from Benzin ímporter to benzin exporter.

look here

and here

and here

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:44 PM

Your cover has been blown pal.You must be one of those "reformist"supporters who thinks that theocracy of mullahs could be reformed.
Well I've got news for you pal. Dream on because that won't happen till hell freezes over.
Iran is going to change radically neither you nor any other "reformist" or agent who pretends that they don't support the theocracy yet try to shot down Iranians that say Iran will is going to get a nasty awakening and nothing can change those facts.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the PRESS TV articles:

The first article is about Iran adding refining capacity--it's not about producing more oil from old fields, which is far costlier and requires more and more capital over time. The second and third articles are about China and Japan buying Iranian oil, which is no surprise.

But even the PRESS TV article acknowledges that Iran's crude exports to China plunged in the first quarter of this year. In fact, they were cut by half. They are recovering now but Sinopec's new contract with NIOC does not allow Iran to back-fill the market and make up for lost sales. That first quarter is lost even though sales are recovering now.

As for Japan, we've been expecting they would arrange a sovereign reinsurance scheme. But that country and its refiners have already committed to importing 15-20% less Iranian crude this year. That's why they received an exemption from U.S. sanctions weeks ago. Iran will still export to Japan but far less than in 2011.

You seem very excited about Iran's advances in benzene production. But last year they exported only $134 million dollars of benzene. Since they're hemorrhaging billions every month due to lost oil sales, I don't see why it should matter. Remember also that benzene is a derivative of crude oil production. So any decline in oil production hurts benzene exports as well. But really--$134 million is mere pennies.

Anonymous said...

The fuel swap was skuttled by Washington.
If you don't acknowledge that much then you are going to be off course from there on.