Iran Two Weeks And Counting, Dolly Tomorrow
The U.S. decided to sit down at the same table with the Iran negotiators in Geneva on Saturday in hopes of impressing on Iran the seriousness of their situation. In response Iran stonewalled as expected and declined to give the six nations present at the talks an answer on halting uranium enrichment. This should have been no surprise to anyone but the U.N. group had to go through the motions.
After Iran refused to give an answer at all the six-nation group gave them two more weeks to come up with a "clear answer" or face stiffer sanctions. This was the first time a U.S. diplomat has met with an Iranian delegation since the hostage crisis in 1979. It was hoped the U.S. presence would stimulate dialog. Iran has wanted to dialog with the U.S. directly because it improves their status in the Middle East. Up until now the U.S. has refused to meet for that very reason. Every move is a bargaining chip and so far only the U.N. group has been putting in chips. Iran refuses to acknowledge the request for a halt.
On the Iran side every comment is simply "unacceptable." They will not talk about any deal that involves halting uranium enrichment. The ultimatum from the U.N. group was united. Russia and China stood with Germany, Britain, France and the U.S. in warning there would be stronger sanctions if Iran did not agree. In the past China and Russia have always been against the sanctions but it appears the group has finally united in the need to stop Iran from going nuclear.
The U.S. message to Iran after the meeting by State Dept spokesman Sean McCormack was "We hope the Iranian people understand that their leaders need to make a choice between cooperation, which would bring benefits to all, and confrontation, which can only lead to further isolation." In diplomatic terms, "further isolation" is shorthand for economic and political sanctions.
A member of the Iranian delegation said it simply and cast doubt over the value of the talks less than an hour after they started. "Suspension - there is no chance for that." The current offer to Iran calls for a six-week suspension from Iran in exchange for a six-week moratorium on new sanctions. It is called a freeze for a freeze. This is to allow Iran to show good faith in the talks by taking a step to show they are serious.
U.S. diplomat William Burns delivered a clear and simple message saying, "Iran must suspend uranium enrichment to have negotiations with the United States." John Bolton, Washington's former ambassador to the U.N. and as undersecretary of state in charge of the Iran file said, "the outcome proved Tehran never had serious intentions to give up its nuclear program." Bolton told the AP this might finally convince the E.U. to take stronger action against Iran.
The breakdown in the talks sent oil prices higher Sunday night to $130.12. Also adding to the upward pressure on oil prices was tropical storm Dolly, which appears headed into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday morning and should hit northern Mexico and South Texas. Any swing northward would impact Houston and possible southwestern Louisiana. At present winds are only 50 mph and Dolly has not reached hurricane strength but that could change as soon as it crosses into the gulf.