By Greg Bruno
Perhaps it was not surprising that after thirty years of diplomatic stalemate, expectations for a major breakthrough between Tehran and world powers in Geneva on October 1 were exceedingly low. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, in an interview with CFR.org, said while Iran was "optimistic about the talks," it was under no illusion resolution will be swift. A senior U.S. official, previewing the talks in a briefing with reporters on September 30, echoed the sentiment: "I think it's pretty safe to predict that this is going to be an extraordinarily difficult process."
Yet for all the measured words before the summit, the post-Geneva consensus is decidedly upbeat. Iran vowed to cooperate "fully" with UN inspectors; U.S. and Iranian negotiators met face-to-face in one of the most substantive bilateral contacts (Guardian) in decades; and more talks are already planned. As David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, told CNN: "For the United States and Iran to sit down finally and start to talk about the significant differences between the two countries is extremely important, and I think it's long overdue." U.S. President Barack Obama said the "meeting was a constructive beginning, but it must be followed by constructive action by the Iranian government."
Complicating the meeting was the revelation of a new uranium enrichment plant near the city of Qom. Iran disclosed the plant in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on September 21 (Fars), but Obama--joined by the leaders of France and Britain--accused Tehran of concealment. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon followed up with calls for greater transparency from the Islamic Republic (NYT) on its nuclear program, and Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing head of the IAEA, said Iran should have alerted his agency about the plant the day construction began (VOA). Iran, meanwhile, denies it broke the law and insists its actions are legal. Mottaki, speaking with NPR, says the facility at Qom will enrich uranium for civilian power production.
Read the rest on Council On Foreign Relations' (CFR) Website