Nuclear talks between Iran and the UN atomic agency failed yet again yesterday, as a top US diplomat said she expected the IAEA to report Tehran to the UN Security Council soon.
The IAEA announcement came just as EU foreign policy chief was due to meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in Istanbul for the first time since failed six-party talks in April. “We could not finalise the structured approach document that has been under negotiation for a year and a half,” the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief inspector told reporters.
“Our best efforts have not been successful so far,” Herman Nackaerts said, adding that no new date for another meeting had been set.
Iran is ready to show flexibility at nuclear talks to ease Western concerns over its contentious nuclear program, its foreign ministry spokesman said on Saturday, as tensions rise in the standoff between the Islamic Republic, Israel and the West.
The remarks by Ramin Mehmanparast, published by the official IRNA news agency, underscore Tehran’s push to resume talks with world powers as Western sanctions squeeze the economy tighter and the European Union weighs a boycott of Iranian natural gas.
“Iran is ready to show flexibility to remove concerns within a legal framework but such measures should be reciprocal,” Mehmanparast was quoted as saying. “The other party needs to take measures to fully recognize Iran’s nuclear rights and Iran’s enrichment for peaceful purposes.”
Russia launched a desperate bid Tuesday to save nuclear talks between six world powers and Iran from collapse and lessen the chances of a Middle East conflict that could draw in the United States.
Failure to reach an agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear activities would increase the chances that Israel — already skeptical of diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon — could launch an attack, a scenario that potentially could pull in the U.S. and spread chaos throughout the Middle East.
Diplomats said the negotiations remained deadlocked as they went into a second and possibly final day, despite pleas from the presidents of the U.S. and Russia for Iran to agree to curb nuclear activities. Iran says sanctions crippling its oil industry must be lifted before it does anything.
A top Russian official reportedly met twice with Iran’s chief envoy on the sidelines of the talks Tuesday, as the host nation tried to keep negotiations on track. Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, conferred with top Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, said one of the diplomats.
The diplomat, like others who spoke to reporters, demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the closed talks.
President Barack Obama could suffer at home if talks fail, even if Israel holds back from attack, because a derailed diplomatic track would give Mitt Romney, his Republican rival for office, additional leeway to criticize him for being too soft on Iran.
Iran’s oil minister on Thursday raised the prospect of more cutoffs in oil sales to the European Union if the bloc failed to show some flexibility toward Iran ahead of a second round of nuclear talks next month.
Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi said that while Iran has cut sales to Britain and France, it continues selling crude to “other countries” in the world. The remarks were likely to stir up confusion since they appeared to contradict earlier government statements that Tehran had also cut exports to Greece and Spain.
Iran first imposed the oil embargoes on Britain and France in February and in April, it said oil sales were cut to Greece and Spain as well. The measures were meant as pre-emptive retaliation ahead of an EU oil embargo that is due to go into effect in July.
The EU imposed the ban because of Iran’s refusal to halt its controversial nuclear program. The bloc imports some 18 percent of total 2.2 million barrels of Iran’s daily oil production.
Ghasemi said that if sanctions imposed by the 27-nation bloc were not lifted by the next round of nuclear talks between Tehran and world powers, then “we will surely cut oil to Europe.”
“We are hopeful that they will lift sanctions on Iran’s oil,” said Ghasemi. “What we have officially cut is crude export to Britain and France. The oil sale to other countries has continued.”
The West suspects Tehran’s nuclear program is geared toward nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities are only for peaceful purposes such as power generation and cancer treatment.
Iran has called on the West to look to lifting its sanctions if it wants to quickly resolve the showdown over Tehran’s disputed nuclear activities, a prospect swiftly ruled out by Washington. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi outlined his country’s message in an interview with the news agency ISNA on Monday, following milestone talks at the weekend in Istanbul between Iran and world powers. Those talks, described by both sides as an encouraging revival of a process that had been moribund for 15 months, are now due to be developed in another, more substantive round on May 23 in Baghdad. “If the West wants to build trust, it should begin with sanctions, because it can help speed up the talks reaching a solution,” Salehi was quoted as saying. “If goodwill (from the West) is present… we are ready to rapidly and easily, and even in the Baghdad meeting, resolve all issues” regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, he said. The foreign minister appeared to suggest that the level of enrichment could be up for discussion. However US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a trip to Brazil Monday, insisted that the “burden of action” is with Iran to prove it is serious in nuclear talks, dismissing Tehran’s appeals for world powers to ease sanctions first. “The burden of action falls on the Iranians to demonstrate their seriousness and we’re going to keep the sanctions in place and the pressure on Iran” as Tehran prepares for the talks in Baghdad next month, Clinton said in Brasilia.
Dozens of Iranian banks were blocked from doing business with much of the world as the West tightens the financial screws on a country it wants to prevent from developing nuclear weapons.
The Belgium-based company that facilitates most international bank transfers on Thursday took the unprecedented step of blocking 30 Iranian banks from using its service. The move is likely to hurt Iran’s all-important oil industry and make it difficult for citizens to receive money from relatives living abroad.
The move by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, is part of a broader effort by Western nations to isolate Iran financially and force it to demonstrate that it is not trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but officials in many other countries believe otherwise.
SWIFT said it was forced by recent European Union sanctions to discontinue service to the Iranian banks beginning Saturday. SWIFT is a secure private network used by nearly every bank around the world to send payment messages that lead to the transfer of money across international borders.
The chief executive of SWIFT, Lazaro Campos, described the move as “extraordinary and unprecedented.”
“It is a direct result of international and multilateral action to intensify financial sanctions against Iran,” he said.
There was no immediate reaction from the Iranian government or the banks involved. Not all Iranian banks are subject to EU sanctions, and oil experts say there will be ways for Iran to sell oil without using SWIFT.
A few days ago, before the latest breakout in crude sent Brent to all time highs in GBP and EUR (and Asian Tapis in USD just shy of all time highs), we said that “we hope our readers stocked up on gasoline. Because things are about to get uglier. And by that we mean more expensive. But courtesy of hedonic adjustments, more expensive means cheaper, at least to the US government.” This was due to recent news out of Iran “where on one hand we learn that IAEA just pronounced Iran nuclear talks a failure (this is bad), and on the other Press TV reports that the Iran army just started a 4 day air defense exercise in a 190,000 square kilometer area in southern Iran (this is just as bad). The escalation “ball” is now in the Western court.” We were not surprised to learn that the “Western court” has responded in precisely the way we had expected. The WSJ reports: “The Pentagon is beefing up U.S. sea- and land-based defenses in the Persian Gulf to counter any attempt by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. military has notified Congress of plans to preposition new mine-detection and clearing equipment and expand surveillance capabilities in and around the strait… The military also wants to quickly modify weapons systems on ships so they could be used against Iranian fast-attack boats, as well as shore-launched cruise missiles” Which means the escalation slider was just shifted up by one more level, as Iran will next do just what every actor caught in an Always Defect regime as part of an iterated prisoners’ dilemma always does – step up the rhetoric even more, as backing off at this point is impossible. Which means that crude will go that much more higher in the coming days, as now even the MSM is starting to grasp the obvious – from the Guardian: “The drumbeat of war with Iran grows steadily more intense. Each day brings more defiant rhetoric from Tehran, another failed UN nuclear inspection, reports of western military preparations, an assassination, a missile test, or a dire warning that, once again, the world is sliding towards catastrophe. If this all feels familiar, that’s because it is. For Iran, read Iraq in the countdown to the 2003 invasion.” And the most ironic thing is that the biggest loser out of all this, at least in the short-term is…. Greece.
As a reminder, here is an update of US naval assets, courtesy of a recently up and running Stratfor:
More on the latest very much anticipated defection from the US in what is setting up to be either the biggest dud of geopolitical foreplay in history, or potentially the start of a new World War (because the Muslim cresent will not take too lightly to any joint or standalone US/Israeli aggression).
The United States and Europe are considering an unprecedented punishment against Iran that could immediately cripple the country’s financial lifeline. But it’s an extreme option in the banking world that would come with its own costs.
The Obama administration wants Iran evicted from SWIFT, an independent financial clearinghouse that is crucial to the country’s overseas oil sales. That would leapfrog the current slow-pressure campaign of sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to drop what the U.S. and its allies contend is a drive toward developing and building nuclear weapons. It also perhaps would buy time for the U.S. to persuade Israel not to launch a pre-emptive military strike on Iran this spring.
The last-resort financial effort suggests the U.S. and Europe are grasping for ways to show immediate results because economic sanctions have so far failed to force Iran back to nuclear talks.
But such a penalty could send oil prices soaring when many of the world’s economies are still frail. It also could hurt ordinary Iranians and undercut the reputation of SWIFT, a banking hub used by virtually every nation and corporation around the world. The organization’s full name is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications.