Iran nuclear technical talks get underway in Istanbul


Technical experts from the EU, United States, Russia, China and Iran are meeting in Istanbul today (July 3rd), to see if they can narrow differences on a proposed confidence building measure that would halt Iran's 20% enrichment activities.

State Department nonproliferation advisor Bob Einhorn and the White House WMD czar Gary Samore are representing the United States at the Istanbul talks.

Irani's top envoy in Istanbul is Hamid Reza Asgari, a legal adviser to Iran's atomic energy organization and non-proliferation advisor to Iran's national security council (pictured above, right, in 2009).

While expectations for the Istanbul talks have been quite low, some analysts said they may be able to make more progress outside of the spotlight and somewhat rigid format of the seven nation P5+1/Iran political-level talks.

“Short and haphazard sittings among senior representatives left too many gaps, which were filled with posturing and political brinksmanship in the interregnum between the talks,” Ali  Vaez, an Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, wrote at Al Monitor Monday. “In contrast, technical meetings can take place in a less charged atmosphere. As such, they could offer a suitable avenue for essential duologue between Iranian and American negotiators, without the fear of stirring up a political hornet's nest back home.”

“Make no mistake: the issue at the crux of Iran’s nuclear crisis is politics, not physics,” Vaez continued. “But while common ground between the two sides on political issues is extremely narrow, if not nonexistent, there is room for maneuver in the technical realm. For instance, both Iran and the P5+1 appear amenable to a compromise on curbing Tehran’s uranium enrichment activities at the 20 per cent level, which provides a shortcut to weapons-grade fissile material:

Given that Iran already has produced nearly the same amount of fissile material that it sought to buy on the international market in 2009 (nearly 120kg), it should be prepared to suspend such activity and convert its entire stockpile of 20 percent uranium hexafluoride into uranium dioxide pellets, used for nuclear fuel fabrication, which is less prone to proliferation. In return, the P5+1 should be prepared to provide Iran with medical isotopes needed for the treatment of 850,000 cancer patients as well as cutting-edge nuclear fuel manufacturing technology. This deal would both provide Iran with advanced nuclear technology for its stated goal of nuclear fuel production while addressing the P5+1’s proliferation concerns.

(Photo: Iran's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh (L) and Hamid-Reza Asgari, a senior advisor in Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, attend a meeting on the Iranian nuclear issue in Vienna with EU, Russian and U.S. diplomats in Vienna's UN headquarters October 21, 2009.  REUTERS/Herwig Prammer.)