What is Iran up to?
Like master chess players, Iranian officials made another move yesterday, Tuesday, May 22, which looked at first glance like a goodwill gesture on the eve of the nuclear talks planned for today in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Yukiya Amano, the head of the Internal Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said before leaving Tehran yesterday that he received a good signal from Iran’s Chief Nuclear Negotiator Saeed Celili about a possible agreement to open up nuclear facilities in Iran to international inspection, which could include the site at Parchin where the P5+1 countries -- properly inspired by Israel -- suspect that there may be some work regarding building nuclear warheads going on.
When Yamato landed in Vienna the same day he failed to give a date at which such an agreement could be reached.
This could be a move on Tehran’s part to awaken hope that a solution will be reached in the Baghdad talks; almost everyone with the slightest interest in the subject could guess that. Yet it was enough to draw extra attention to the talks in Baghdad today. It is a fact that the sanctions on Iran are hurting, and this could be the first example of sanctions bringing about a political result without war becoming necessary.
There might be another motivation behind this move, namely the same reason why Iran preferred to have the talks in Baghdad after the Istanbul meeting in April: Iran wants to give Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom it supports, a higher profile.
Iraq is not in the best of situations since the U.S. troops left. It is suffering from all the drawbacks of the ethnically and sectarian-based political power-sharing system established by the Americans. The Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi is currently being tried for allegedly trying to undermine the government, in absentia (he is staying in Turkey). The Kurdistan Regional Government in the north, near the Turkish and Iranian borders, is at odds with Baghdad in many areas. Rich oil and gas resources are unfortunately a reason for further divisions in Iraq, not a reason for prosperity for all, for the time being.
Especially since the Iran-backed regime in Syria began to show signs of weakness, and an anti-Iranian sentiment has become visible among the Gulf regimes, consolidating the Shiite power base in Iraq has become especially important for Iran.
But of course this is not the main story. The main story is Iran’s right to have nuclear energy and the international community’s right to transparency around Iran’s nuclear program. It is because of the maximalist stance of the P5+1 that a solution (for example one like the Turkish-Brazilian project of swapping enriched uranium, which failed in 2010) is delayed, and every Iran uses every second of that delay to enrich more uranium. Then come more threats from Israel that it will attack Iran, and more statements from the U.S. (as the country heads into a presidential election) about its readiness to attack Iran, and only Iran moves forward, as everyone else goes back to square one.
Today chess game in Baghdad will be very interesting to watch.