May 24, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 839

The Baghdad Talks – An Interim Report

May 24, 2012 | By A. Savyon and Yossi Mansharof*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 839

Following two days of talks between Iran and the West in Baghdad, reports have it that another round may be held three weeks from now in Geneva.[1] The following is an interim report on the Baghdad talks.

1. The Western Position

Sources in the 5+1 described the Western proposal as one that will "interest" Iran. No precise details about the proposal have been released, but, judging by Iranian responses to it, the West has apparently consented to low-level enrichment activities by Iran.[2]

The spokesman of EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton told the Iranian website Nasim Online that the current proposal package addresses the issue of 20 percent enrichment (apparently alluding to the suspension of this activity). According to the website, the continuation of the talks depends on Iran's consent to this proposal.[3] The Iranian website Fararu reported that, according to rumors, the West requires Iran to halt its 20 percent enrichment activities and accept the NPT Additional Protocol – demands which Tehran firmly rejects.[4]

2. The Iranian Position

Tehran insists that the Baghdad talks are meant to address global issues (such as combating terrorism and drugs, the Syrian crisis, etc.), including global nuclear disarmament (rather than Iran's nuclear program). This, according to Tehran, is because the nuclear weapons of the P5 countries constitute a threat to world peace, whereas Iran's nuclear activities are a legitimate and inalienable right, and are aimed at peaceful purposes – as evident from Khamenei's (nonexistent) fatwa against nuclear weapons.[5] This is the basis for Tehran's counter-proposal, submitted in response to the 5+1 proposal, which Iran has described as "unbalanced." Iran's proposal calls for mutuality and Western trust-building measures as part of a reciprocal "step-for-step" process.[6]

3. Steps Taken By Iran In Lead-Up To Talks

According to information leaked from an upcoming IAEA report, published just prior to the commencement of the Baghdad talks, Iran recently installed hundreds of new centrifuges at the underground enrichment facility in Fordow. Iran itself announced a few days ago that 20 percent-enriched uranium plates have been installed in its research facility in Tehran.[7]

These two reports indicate Iran's intention to continue its enrichment program without requiring Western assistance or permission. In fact, practically speaking, Iran is a "nuclear threshold state," though the West is not eager to recognize it as such.

4. Iranian Statements Following First Day Of Talks

At the end of the first day of talks, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that "the Iranian nation is continuing its rapid advance towards further achievements and towards the instatement of justice, [whereas] the oppression, arrogance, and violence front [i.e., the West headed by the U.S.] is facing weakness and collapse, regardless of its propaganda... The Iranian nation is optimistic about the future, and the horizon is smiling upon it..."[8]

5. Iranian Statements On Second Day Of Talks

When reports on the second day of talks spoke of a deadlock, Iranian news agencies lay the blame on the U.S., accusing it of preventing a solution. The Mehr news agency stated that the 5+1 had withdrawn from the "encouraging positions" it had presented in the Istanbul talks and had neglected the principle of mutuality agreed upon in those talks. Mehr reported that the sides were discussing the timing and location of the next round of talks.[9]

The Baghdad correspondent for Fars reported that "the 5+1 negotiation team and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton... seem to be lacking an agenda. They are apparently playing for time and are not authorized to take risks." [10]

* A. Savyon is director of the Iranian Media Project; Y. Mansharof is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] Mehr (Iran), May 24, 2012.

[2] The Iranian daily Kayhan stated that the West's proposal in Baghdad represents a withdrawal from its former positions, because Iran was previously required to suspend all enrichment activities. (Kayhan, Iran, May 23, 2012). This implies that the proposal allows Iran some enrichment activity.

[3], May 23, 2012.

[4], May 24, 2012.

[5] See statement by Iran's official news agency, headed "Iran Has Upper Hand in Baghdad Talks in Light of Supreme Leader's Fatwa" (IRNA, Iran, May 23, 2012); Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement that "WMDs are forbidden in Iran's defensive doctrine" (Press TV, Iran, May 23, 2012).

[6] Press TV (Iran), May 23, 2012.

[7] Tehran Times (Iran), May 22, 2012.

[8] Kayhan (Iran), May 24, 2012.

[9] Mehr (Iran), May 24, 2012.

[10] Fars (Iran), May, 24, 2012.

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