New Castle News


November 12, 2013

Our Opinion: Fate of nuclear talks with Iran remains uncertain

NEW CASTLE — Hope flickered for a while last week regarding a possible breakthrough nuclear deal with Iran.

But this week, things appear to be a bit more muddled.

High-level talks that included Iran, the United States and assorted Western allies ended last week with no agreement. Instead, the parties have scheduled another round of talks next week, albeit at a lower diplomatic level.

Meanwhile, Iran announced yesterday it will allow expanded United Nations access to some of its nuclear facilities. Iranian officials described the move as a “road map” to a broader agreement. But yesterday’s deal made no mention of the most sensitive Iranian sites suspected of being involved in any military nuclear applications.

So what does all of this mean? For the moment, optimism must be maintained. Any ongoing dialogue is better than threats and accusations lobbed back and forth. And even if there are rough patches in the negotiations, that’s not unusual.

Such efforts at the international level rarely move forward without deviations or distractions.

But the success of this effort is far from clear. It’s not just that the West and Iran have different perspectives; there is also the uncertainty of how far the current Iranian government can go in terms of cutting a deal with the West without incurring the wrath of Islamic hard-liners.

Yesterday’s announced agreement with the United Nations fails to get at the heart of the matter with Iran’s nuclear program. But it does give Iran the ability to claim it is demonstrating flexibility on the issue.

Perhaps this is a good-faith effort on Iran’s part to show it wants a broader accord, or perhaps it’s putting on a show.

Chief among the skeptics where Iran is concerned is the government of Israel. No surprise there: If Iran does develop a nuclear weapon, Israel presumably would be the prime target. Israel has threatened pre-emptive strikes against Iranian facilities and is suspected of assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists.

To put it mildly, Israel has been highly skeptical of any effort to negotiate a deal with Iran, with officials fearful that an agreement would lift sanctions and still allow that country to pursue its nuclear ambitions in secret.

That’s a definite concern, but all responsible nations ought to have similar positions where Iran and nuclear proliferation are concerned. The goal in negotiations is not to satisfy Israel, but to establish an agreement that is beneficial and enforceable.

An Iran concerned with its future should work toward that goal as well. This would allow it to escape economic sanctions and avoid possible war.

As for Iran’s claims of a peaceful nuclear effort, we note that America’s civilian nuclear energy program is struggling these days because of competition from shale gas. Economically, the future of nuclear power appears to be limited.

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