Some very interesting signals in comments by Gary Samore, President Obama's special advisor for arms control, in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Libertyabout last weekend's discussions in Istanbul between Iran and the 5+1 Powers:
1. CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM....
I think compared to the last meeting in Istanbul in January
2011, the Iranians certainly seemed to be much more serious about entering
into real negotiations. There was much less posturing, no preconditions;
they were prepared to talk about the nuclear issue and, obviously, they
agreed to have another round of meetings in Baghdad at the end of May. And
the Iranians themselves suggested that there should be a meeting of
deputies to help set up the agenda and the discussions for the Baghdad
meeting. So we came away from the discussions in Istanbul with the sense
that we have started a process. Whether or not that process will
ultimately reach an agreement, it is just too early to tell.
2. ....AND IT'S ALL BECAUSE OF US SANCTIONS....
Q: Some say that the Iranians are very good at playing for time
through negotiations. What makes it different this time, if anything?
SAMORE: Well, I think time works on our side, because at the end of June and at the beginning of July, much bigger financial and oil sanctions will kick in. At the end of June, the U.S. will impose sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran; and at the very beginning of July, the EU oil boycott of Iran will take force. So from our standpoint, time works in our favor. To the extent that the Iranian concern about sanctions is driving them to seek an agreement, the closer we get to the summer, the stronger our position becomes....
We feel it is very important that we continue with sanctions even as we conduct the negotiations, because sanctions have apparently produced an Iranian interest in resuming negotiations. We need to keep the pressure on until we see concrete actions to address the concerns that the international community has about Iran's nuclear program.
3. ....BUT I WON'T TELL YOU (OR WE DON' KNOW) WHAT THE DEAL IS....