Following an unenthusiastic acceptance of Iran’s offer of ‘all-encompassing’ six-party talks by the United States, demands from the US regarding what the talks must include and comments from Iranian officials about what the talks can’t include are leaving open the issue of whether there is any point to the talks at all, and if they will even happen.
The US, which says their expectations for the talks are “extremely low,” has insisted that they will make the issue of Iran’s civilian nuclear program central to the discussion. Meanwhile, while Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says the Iranian government wouldn’t rule out discussing the nuclear issue, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the nation absolutely will not negotiate over its nuclear rights.
Rarely have talks been so long anticipated and so unenthusiastically joined by both parties. The United States initially dismissed the proposal for talks out of hand, but thought better of it after Russia said they wouldn’t support the American call for “crippling” new sanctions against the Iranians for ‘refusing to talk.’ Iran avoided making the proposal for months, and only made the proposal as momentum for new sanctions was picking up.
But it seems like there is little point to holding the actual meeting. Abandoning its civilian nuclear program after years as a pariah state for even attempting it would be hugely damaging for the Iranian government’s domestic credibility, and accepting the program after years of insisting it was a grave threat to the entire planet is unthinkable for the US. The only thing either side is hoping to accomplish is to prove that they are “engaging” the other in hopes of rallying the international community to their camp in the ongoing struggle.