President Barack Obama believes that international sanctions against Iran are cause for “disquiet” in the Islamic Republic. As the country finds itself under pressure and threatened with regional isolation, the United States will prepare steps for Tehran that it could take in order reassure the world about its nuclear ambitions, he said.
Speaking with a small group of journalists on Wednesday, the president told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour that his administration had picked up “rumblings that there is disquiet about the impact” of the latest round of sanctions in Iran.
Possibly in response to the latest UN sanctions which were followed by unilateral action on the part of both the European Union and the United States, Iran has signaled a renewed willingness to negotiate about a nuclear fuel exchange agreement. It reached such a deal with Brazil and Turkey last May but that was regarded by Western allies as little more than a stalling tactic. The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, now welcomes the Iranians’ willingness to talk, as does President Obama.
According to the president, the costs of the sanctions has been higher than Iran anticipated. Changing their “calculus” is difficult however. “It may be that their ideological commitment to nuclear weapons is such that they’re not making a simple cost-benefit analysis on this issue,” he feared, after twice mentioning Iranian nationalism as a potential motivator — one that the president acknowledged he could not change
Negotiations about an exchange of nuclear fuel will take place with the Vienna Group, comprised of France and Russia besides the United States. In St. Petersburg last month, French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced that his country was prepared to start talking with Iran over its nuclear program “without delay.” Sarkozy stressed at the time that the sanctions “were not to punish Iran but to convince its leaders to resume the path of negotiations.”
A second set of talks takes place with the P5+1 group which includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council along with Germany. Baroness Ashton spearheads this negotiation effort. “Both tracks have promise in bringing about a diplomatic and political solution,” said Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, on Tuesday.
Turkey, which has repeatedly offered to mediate between Iran and the West, has reportedly been in intense contact with Washington about its diplomatic efforts in recent weeks. The Turks are trying to persuade the Iranians to get back to the table.
Different sources expect international talks with Iran to be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York come September.