Is Iran backing down on its plans to build a nuclear weapon? Some Western observers may be encouraged to think so after reading reports saying that Iran has decided to resume negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency about monitoring its program. Iran has been stonewalling the United Nations Agency for months and has prevented inspectors from visiting the Parchin site where military nuclear research has been conducted. As the New York Times reports, an Iranian news agency has also claimed that new and more sophisticated devices for enriching uranium being installed at the Natanz site have been designed so as to ensure that the product created by the process won’t be useable for weapons.
If true, both developments could be considered hopeful signs that Iran is responding to the pressure created by international economic sanctions in a way that may lead to a solution to the nuclear impasse. Even if that is a bit optimistic even for those who are still convinced that a window of diplomacy exists to end the dispute, it could at least mean that Iran is desirous of slowing down the pace of escalation of the conflict leaving more time for a deal to be worked out.
But after a decade of Iranian deceptions and diplomatic dead ends, taking this information at face value is the sort of mistake that Tehran has come to count on the West making on a regular basis. The one thing we know for sure is that Iran is installing more centrifuges and that the commitment of the Islamist regime to achieving its nuclear goal is undiminished. Moreover, the refusal of the Iranians to engage in direct talks with the United States shows that the only kind of diplomatic process it wants is a multilateral one with weak-willed Europeans like EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that will let it get away with more delay. That’s why these mixed signals are far more likely to be just the latest in a long series of prevarications designed to convince the West that it has more time than actually exists before it is too late to do anything about the Iranian nuclear threat than a genuine breakthrough.