On April 14 and 15, Istanbul will host so-called P5+1 countries. They include the five permanent Security Council members - America, Russia, China, Britain, and France - plus Germany.
According to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, Baghdad will host more talks at a mutually agreed on date.
With Iran, they'll discuss the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Holding talks at all should be challenged. Tehran's program is peaceful. It's entitled to develop it like dozens of other nations. They're not pressured to talk or halt legitimate activities.
Why Iran? The issue's a red herring. The real one's regime change. Pretexts are used to pursue it. If not one, then another. If none exist, they're invented. Washington wants Tehran's government replaced by a pro-Western one.
Iran wants its sovereignty respected. It wants peace, not confrontation and conflict. It threatens no one. Its nuclear program is nonmilitary. US intelligence, IAEA inspectors, and Israel's Mossad said so. Nonetheless, false accusations persist. Expect no Istanbul resolution. Washington won't tolerate it.
Obama called scheduled talks a "last chance" to resolve Iran's nuclear issue diplomatically. White House spokesman Jay Carney said:
There's an "international consensus about the absolute need for the Iranians to abide by their obligations, to forsake their nuclear weapons ambitions, to demonstrate verifiably that they can reassure the world that they do not seek to acquire nuclear weapons."
"And you know, our bottom line, our position is that Iran must -- live up to its international obligations, including the full suspension of uranium enrichment, as required by multiple UN Security Council resolutions."
He added that Iran can come in from the cold by "forsak(ing) its nuclear weapons ambitions."
Carney and other Obama officials, of course, know none exists. Saying otherwise suggests Washington's real agenda. It's unrelated to Iran's nuclear program.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehanparast said:
"The West seeks to cause conflict in the region and instability among regional countries, but the Islamic Republic of Iran is interested in stability and security of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East."
An unnamed Western diplomat said Iran must make concessions. "The onus is on them in this first meeting to demonstrate that they are serious about a negotiation over their nuclear program. If they are, we will get into detail on what that would look like."
According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) senior researcher Shannon Kile, "The clock is definitely ticking. This may be the last best chance for diplomacy."
If diplomacy fails, added Daniel Keohane of the European think tank FRIDE, "you could be looking at the possibility of conflict in the region."
Suggesting compromise, Iran's nuclear energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said Tehran might scale back production to an "enrich what we need" level. It wants what's necessary to generate electricity and make medical isotopes for cancer patient treatment.
How that plays in Istanbul remains to be seen. Washington has other aims in mind. So does Israel. It won't attend talks, but its presence will be felt. Therein perhaps lie challenges too great to resolve.
Both countries want regime change. Netanyahu demands Iran stop all uranium enrichment, remove what he calls "military grade enriched material" from the country, and close its Fordo facility. Defense Minister Ehud Barak wants no more uranium enrichment to 20%.
Both officials differ on demands made. Each issued statements outlining their positions. Netanyahu's uncompromising. He stopped short of demanding Iran abandon its nuclear program entirely, but came close.
Barak wants enriched uranium removed "aside from a quantity of several hundred kilograms, which would not allow for the continued enrichment for weapons or a nuclear facility."
He also wants stepped up IAEA monitoring and full disclosure of Iran's "military nuclear project" even though none exists.
Washington also wants Fordo closed, uranium enrichment to 20% halted, and existing stockpiles sent abroad. Iran may agree to less than 20% enrichment. It won't offshore stockpiles or close Fordo, nor shoud it. It also won't curtail or halt other legitimate nuclear activities.
Fordo's located underground deep within a mountain for protection against US and/or Israeli attacks. What's ongoing there is legal. It's enriching uranium to 20%. Producing medical isotopes requires it. Moreover, IAEA cameras monitor operations, and regular inspections are conducted. No evidence suggests Iran's diverting uranium for military purposes.
Chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalilik will head a four-member delegation in Istanbul. Tehran's Turkish ambassador, Bahman Hosseinpour, will monitor discussions.
Ahead of the session, Tehran reiterated its right to pursue peaceful nuclear development and operations. It won't halt legitimate nuclear activities or close Fordo. It's "built underground because of sanctions and the threats of attacks."
"If they do not threaten us and guarantee that no aggression will occur, then there would be no need for countries to build facilities underground. They should change their behavior and language."
According to Abbasi Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO), enrichment to 20% will continue, despite "irrational" demands made.
"We will not produce 20% enrichment fuel more than what we need, because it is not our benefit to produce and keep it."
That level is needed to produce medical isotopes. Electricity generation needs only around 3.5%. Weapons grade requires about 90%.
In Japan on a state visit, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said:
"The demands put forth by the negotiating groups have been one-sided. This comes while we believe the negotiations should be two-sided."
Former chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, Hossein Mousavian, said upcoming talks "provide the best opportunity to break the nine-year deadlock over Iran's nuclear program."
He stressed it depends on the West negotiating in good faith, recognizing Tehran's legitimate rights, and agreeing to "three major elements:
(1) recognition of Iran’s inalienable rights for enrichment;
(2) removal of the sanctions; and
(3) normalization of Iran’s nuclear file."
"In return, Iran should provide full transparency to IAEA inspection as well as confidence-building measures and assurances that it will remain a non-nuclear weapon state."
On April 12, a Haaretz editorial headlined, "Israel has to give Iran nuclear talks a chance," saying:
Germany calls them "the last diplomatic opportunity." Nonetheless, "it is doubtful the meeting will yield decisive results that would calm down the West and Israel, or alternatively, make it clear there is no other option but a military offensive."
Israel spurns diplomacy. So does Washington. Both don't negotiate. They demand. Failure to yield assures stalemate, heading toward confrontation.
Until results from Istanbul are clear, "the ball is in the court of the world powers, which fear an Israeli attack no less than (an) Iranian nuclear weapon."
At issue is embroiling the region in war. Stability would be undermined. All sides lose. None win. World leaders can prevent it by confronting reckless Washington and Israeli policies.
Istanbul and G 8 discussions aren't necessary. Responsible daily policy is key. At issue is why leaders avoid it, and why public pressure's not applied to force them.
Risking catastrophic regional war is madness, especially one able to become global. Preventing it is top priority. Popular pressure is key.
Politicians need support to be reelected. As a result, sometimes they do the right thing.
The time for peaceful coexistence is now. Only grassroots activism may get it, but not unless people try. Saving humanity's their responsibility. It's up to them to protect it.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|