After more than a year break, will resume talks between major powers and Iran regarding its nuclear program, diplomats announced in many western countries. After weeks of tensions in the Strait of Hormuz and while speculation abounds about possible Israeli military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, diplomacy seems to recover. "Everyone wants to calm things down," said a European official, stating: "calm the Israelis."
If the decision to initiate discussions on the west side seems gained, after an offer of talks made Feb. 14 by Iran, the terms and process parameters are still the subject of intense consultations. A central question is very delicate, even within the group of Western countries dealing with the case of proliferation: how far to make concessions to Iran to maintain a thread of dialogue?
The Obama administration and Germany would support flexibility, while France and the UK warn against negotiations devoid of credibility that would let Iran buy time to continue its nuclear work, if the requirements stringent are not preserved.
Central to the debate: how Iran would be, or not, have to suspend all uranium enrichment, an activity that can lead to the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. The stay application is included in the resolutions of the Security Council passed UN since 2006. But Iran has refused to comply, at least in full, demanding in return that international sanctions are lifted.
The major powers have yet to agree on the linkage between any freeze of sanctions against Iran? or their growth? and a freeze on uranium enrichment? or part of this activity. France, for its part, seems reluctant to settle for a freeze of Iran's uranium enrichment to 20%, with no guarantee that the enrichment to 3.5% will also be interrupted , binding in a sequence.
But a drive to reduce tensions seems now engaged, and that is precisely the fear of a military slippage in the Gulf region, amid heavy international economic pressures on Iran, which seems to push the protagonists to sit around a table.
REDUCING THE RISK OF Israeli strikes
Diplomats said the target date for the talks is early April, after the Iranian holiday of Nowruz Day, March 21. Interesting coincidence: many "leaks" in the Israeli media had, of late, spread the idea that the "launch window" for a military scenario, begin precisely in the spring.
The resumption of talks between Iran and major powers would significantly reduce the risk of Israeli strikes, at least for a while ... that Iran would have a natural interest in making it last. For, whatever the immediate result of these discussions, it would be difficult for the Jewish state from claiming any legitimacy when bombing resumed efforts to seek a negotiated settlement.
The sequence is preparing diplomatic answer, therefore, a major concern of the Obama administration: "hold Israeli fire" as long as possible, to allow new oil sanctions take effect. Avoid parallel, a slippage in the Middle East military rushed a regional conflagration with unforeseeable consequences, and a surge in oil prices detrimental to the reelection campaign of U.S. President.
What a turn, and, more importantly, what content, have the awaited talks with Iran? Formally, the model would be the same as the Istanbul meeting in January 2011, which had hardly been conclusive. On the one hand, the envoys of the six powers (U.S., Russia, France, UK, China, Germany) since 2008 to coordinate somehow on the nuclear issue, and are supported by the European High Representative, Catherine Ashton. The other, the Iranian envoy , who in a recent letter to Ashton, said he was ready for discussions "at the first opportunity."
Russia, which continues to defend the idea of a broad compromise with Iran, including an elimination "step by step" of sanctions, is emerging as the major card on which the regime in Tehran seeks to build. "The Iranians have shown themselves adept and will be difficult for us to maintain the unity of the Group of Six," said a Western official.
The resumption of talks with Iran, if it can give the impression of a complete reversal of the situation after the sound of boots heard in recent months, is not, however, a huge surprise. The Tehran regime has already, in the past, sought to defuse external pressure suitable for diplomatic choreography.
The venue for the upcoming meeting is not fixed. Iran has indicated that he would like everything happens in Istanbul, focusing on the complexity of its relationship with Turkey, both countries and regional competitor essential economic partner. West side, some would prefer Beijing to better engage the Chinese, whose cooperation is sought for the sanctions policy.
IRAN'S ATTEMPTS TO "MANAGE" ITS PUBLIC OPINION
French side, we want to see anyway in these preparations a validation of the policy of strengthening international sanctions that the Elysée has strongly advocated in recent months. Iran, the West confronted in efforts to establish a boycott of its oil to international markets, would be willing to make concessions. "If they want to negotiate is that you take the good end," suggests a diplomat.
The Iranian gesture can be read as a form of retreat, since Tehran had once declared "closed" nuclear issue, considering not having to detail the nature of its work. A mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the audit arm of the UN, was to complete, Tuesday, Feb. 21, a new mission in Iran.
But the letter from the Jalili Iranian envoy also contains, as noted by the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, the "ambiguities" significant. It does not waive the requirement of Iranian sanctions lifted and acceptance of uranium enrichment - the two preconditions that derailed the talks in January 2011.
In addition to its consummate art of negotiation, Iran seems very concerned, also, to "manage" its domestic public opinion, on the eve of the election on March 2, the first election deadline in the country for the events of 2009 followed a massive crackdown. Regime, where the clans clash conservative plays on nationalistic chord by announcing scientific achievements more or less credible. By being willing to talk with the great powers, it also seeks to shirk the responsibility of the economic difficulties experienced by the population, due to sanctions