Some positive talk on the Iran front

Jim Lobe, the namesake of my sometime internet home, writes that this has been a positive week for news about the Iran negotiations. For one thing, the idea of a deal was endorsed by a key player in the Iran sanctions community:

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Amb. Stuart Eizenstat, who played a key role in promoting sanctions against Iran under both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and who succeeded Dennis Ross as chairman of the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), challenged Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz’s recent claim in a New York Times op-ed that the failure to reach an agreement “can be regarded a qualified success, because it would represent the integrity of an international community adhering to its principles rather than sacrificing the future of global security.”

According to Eizenstat, whose experience in Democratic foreign policy circles was described as “vast” by none other than Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard two years ago:

No deal is not a success, because it means an unrestrained use of centrifuges, the Iranian plutonium plant at Arak continuing, no intrusive inspections, no elimination of 20-percent enriched uranium, and less likelihood of eliminating weaponization.

…[A deal] would not be a bouquet of roses. It has a lot of thorns in it. But the alternative is nothing but thorns. It would almost force a military reaction, which even under the best circumstances  …would set back Iran two to three years and have ripple effects that would tremendously harm Israel, such as attacks from Hezbollah.

Eizenstat, as you’ll read when you click over to Jim’s piece, is no Iran dove. He’s been firmly in the camp pushing military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities if necessary, for example, so if he’s come around to the merits of a deal along the lines of what the Obama administration is suggesting, that’s a real statement.

What kind of deal is the administration talking about? On Thursday, as Jim notes, the Wall Street Journal reported that a compromise on Iran’s enrichment program was being floated both here and in Tehran, one that would require that Iran cut the number of its active centrifuges down to 4000, rather than the 1000 that P5+1 negotiators were focused on earlier in the talks. In return it’s possible that Iran would agree to a slower draw down on sanctions, something the WSJ termed a “probation period of sorts,” though it’s not clear what that would mean since sanctions relief was always going to be a staged process. The Obama administration doesn’t seem to be saying much, but Jim also points to a speech given Thursday at CSIS by State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, where she seemed to take an optimistic tone about the direction of the talks. None of this is a guarantee that things are moving in a positive direction, but it’s certainly better news than we’ve had in some time on this issue.

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