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Iran Analysis: Tehran's Signals on Nuclear Talks --- We Will Negotiate, But We Can Be Tough Just Like the US

Joanna Paraszczuk and Scott Lucas write:

On Thursday, going beyond simple headlines in the Western press that the Supreme Leader had "condemned" or "slammed" the US over the nuclear issue --- we assessed the signals in Ayatollah Khamenei's statement.

We argued that the Supreme Leader was talking tough, calling on the West to prove its "honesty" in the next high-level talks in April. In particular, Ayatollah Khamenei was signalling that the US and European countries must acknowledge the Islamic Republic's sovereignty to enrich uranium --- before Iran made any commitment to suspend enrichment of 20% uranium and limit activities to 5% fuel.

We also noted,"Western media coverage...does not consider the possibility that Ayatollah Khamenei might be responding to American declarations in the last 72 hours condemning and 'slamming' Iran."

Ayatollah Khamenei's line --- we are taking a firm negotiating position, but we are pursuing technical talks next week and then the high-level discussions next month --- is reflected by Iranian officials and media this morning.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, reflecting the more conciliatory side of the Iranian position, said in a  meeting with foreign ambassadors, “The proposals of the P5+1 [US, Britain, Germany, France, China, and Russia]  at the meeting in Almaty [in Kazakhstan last week] have become closer to the proposals of the Islamic Republic of Iran and they are more logical and realistic in nature."

The conservative outlet Tabnak reacts to the harder US line this week, "The recent statements by US officials, which are in clear contrast to those of even a week ago, proves that America is not interested in resolving the real problems and tensions with Iran and its claims that it does are just slogans."

Tabnak supports its view by quoting Michael O'Hanlon of America's Brookings Institution that "US policy on Iran is unlikely to see a major shift after the installation of new Secretaries of State and Defense".

Javan Online, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, uses this week's comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry, to argue, "Talks in Almaty were positive, but just a week later the West seems to have made a shift in position where it is seeking new requirements from Iran."

Kerry, speaking during a visit to Saudi Arabia, warned that Iran is continuing with its nuclear programme despite sanctions. He said that Washington will not speak with Iran about issues, such as regional matters, beyond uranium enrichment.

Yet, for all the blame of the Americans for supposedly shifting their position and undoing the advance in last week's talks, the message is that the Islamic Republic is still committed to more discussions. This morning, the Iranian Students News Agency highlights comments by Chinese officials that "dialogue is the way to resolve the nuclear issue".

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