Nuclear Talks With Iran Not Going Very Well

| Wed Dec. 18, 2013 11:26 AM PST

Paul Richter of the LA Times reports that talks with Iran aren't going very well:

Three weeks after President Obama hailed a landmark deal to suspend most of Iran's nuclear program for the next six months, the mood among U.S. officials about the next round of negotiations has shifted from elated to somber, even gloomy.

....Problems already have emerged. Technical talks in Vienna aimed at implementing the initial deal stopped Thursday when Iranian negotiators unexpectedly flew back to Tehran, reportedly in response to the Obama administration's decision to expand its blacklist of foreign companies and individuals who have done business with Iran in violation of sanctions.

....Even before Thursday's interruption, experts had struggled to determine how to sequence the complex next steps involved: neutralizing a stockpile of medium-enriched uranium and freezing most other enrichment operations in exchange for granting Iran access, in installments, to $4.2 billion of its own funds held in banks overseas and easing sanctions on petrochemical and auto exports.

None of this surprises me. Even with the incentive of shucking off the sanctions that have crippled their economy, the price the Western allies is asking might just be too high for Iran to accept. In the end, ensuring that Iran can't build a bomb requires dismantling nearly all of Iran's nuclear infrastructure and putting in place extremely intrusive monitoring of what's left. There are a hundred different ways this could run aground on both sides.

Hopefully, this is just the normal trough in negotiations after the initial bloom of goodwill from getting talks started. After all, both sides have good reason to want to make a deal. But if I had to guess, I'd put the odds of success at 50 percent or less.

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