img class=”alignnone” alt=”” src=”http://www.recorder.com/csp/mediapool/sites/dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls?STREAMOID=bdH4IVCTORK9hP0yivIAys$daE2N3K4ZzOUsqbU5sYvRaI2fZFCyu3NwSYv15WjAWCsjLu883Ygn4B49Lvm9bPe2QeMKQdVeZmXF$9l$4uCZ8QDXhaHEp3rvzXRJFdy0KqPHLoMevcTLo3h8xh70Y6N_U_CryOsw6FTOdKL_jpQ-&CONTENTTYPE=image/jpeg” width=”561″ height=”351″ />Some current and former western diplomats said Friday that they think Iran plans to put a broad and substantive offer on the table at nuclear talks with six world powers in Geneva next week, even as Iran’s top diplomat took to Twitter Friday to urge patience amid mounting speculation about what Iran may propose.
“We will present our views, as agreed, in Geneva, not before,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter Friday. “No Rush, No Speculations Please (of course if you can help it!!!)”
There's some expectation that Iran could present a broader, “more coherent and better articulated” proposal than previously, a western diplomat, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor Friday.
Among the elements it is thought that Iran's proposed package could include, he said: suspending 20% uranium enrichment, and reducing its 20% stockpile, probably by continuing to convert it to oxide; limiting the number of centrifuges enriching, if not installed. It may offer to freeze the situation at the Fordo enrichment facility, built inside a fortified bunker, or switch cascades currently enriching to 20% to 3.5% there. It may also express willingness to accept more safeguards and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In return, Iran is expected to ask for substantial sanctions relief, including finance and oil-related sanctions.
“My understanding is that Javad Zarif will…lay out a plan that will basically say, ‘Look, we want to do what is necessary, beginning now and ending in a year’s time, to assure everybody here that we don’t want… a nuclear weapon,’” William Luers, a former veteran US diplomat who directs The Iran Project, told journalists on a press call Friday.
“The impression I get from talking to both Zarif and [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani is that they have made a decision that they want to open up their economy to the world again, and are prepared to do substantial things to make that happen,” Luers said. “And they will say, ‘We want to know what you will do in terms of sanctions relief.’”
As near term steps, Luers said he thought Zariif would suggest that Iran is “prepared to either cease or reduce substantially” 20% enrichment, “do something serious about Fordo, short of locking it up,” and to agree to not bring on-line new centrifuges. He also anticipated Iran would offer to provide more access to the IAEA, as well as to take some unspecified action on the Arak heavy water reactor that Israel fears could give Iran a second route to acquire fissile material that could be used in a nuclear weapon.
Former US Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, however, urged lowering expectations about what Iran brings to Geneva, given his past experience, which includes negotiating with the Iranians in Geneva in 2001 and in Iraq in 2007.
“While I would like to think that the P5+1 talks with Iran are going to result in a concrete Iranian proposal on what they are prepared to do, but given the history of these talks, and multilateral diplomatic efforts generally, I am not overly optimistic,” Crocker said on the press call Friday.
Crocker said he thinks it’s more likely that Iranian negotiators in Geneva will say–much as they did in New York last month–that “Iran does not seek a nuclear weapons program. That it insists on its right to a peaceful nuclear energy program under international oversight. And that it insists on its right to enrichment at levels that are internationally acceptable,” he said.
“If we get much beyond that, I will be pleasantly surprised,” Crocker said.
He said he thought more progress could be made in direct talks between Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry than in the seven-nation talks between the P5+1 and Iran.
“In my own experience [negotiating with the Iranians after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks], …we found that if we really wanted to get somewhere,…we needed to find a way to talk bilaterally, face to face,” Crocker said. “That is when we started making real progress. [So we] should try to continue the Kerry-Zarif [meeting] precedent and engage in bilateral discussions.”
It seems Iran's Zarif may feel the same way. Iranian media reported Friday that while Zarif will present Iran’s proposal in the morning session at the October 15 talks in Geneva, he then plans to leave his deputy Abbas Araghchi to represent Iran in the talks with political directors from the six world powers, given the disparity in their diplomatic ranks.
While the State Department announced that Kerry will travel to Paris and London after his surprise visit to Afghanistan Friday, he is not expected to make a surprise appearance in Geneva next week, U.S. officials said. “Not going to happen,” Al-Monitor was told.
The U.S. team to the Geneva talks will be led by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, and is expected to include her deputy and veteran nonproliferation advisor Jim Timbie, State Department Iran sanctions advisor Richard Nephew, National Security Staff Senior Director for Persian Gulf Affairs Puneet Talwar, Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control official Adam Szubin, and State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf, officials said.
(Photo of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton attend a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany at UN headquarters in New York September 26, 2013. By the Associated Press.)zp8497586rq