A third round of negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear program opened Monday in Moscow, and the tense first day of discussions did not appear promising. Tehran says it will stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity — just below weapons grade — but not until world leaders ease up on harsh sanctions and recognize its right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes. But the six world powers involved in the talks (United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany) won't budge until Iran agrees to export all of its nuclear fuel and prove that it will live up to an agreement to end its quest for nuclear weapons for good. Is there any hope these talks will lead to a breakthrough? Here, three ways the negotiations could actually succeed:
1. Don't let up on sanctions, and Iran will cave
"The sanctions are harming Iran's economy," says Jeremy Herb at The Hill, because they're finally hitting where it hurts — the oil industry. President Obama argues that the tougher economic measures are what "brought Iran back to the negotiating table." Iran is desperate to get the U.S. to lift sanctions targeting the Iranian central bank, and to head off a European Union ban on Iranian oil taking effect in July. But they aren't likely to loosen the noose until Tehran gives them what they want.
2. Just keep everyone talking
Given the high stakes and the history of failed talks, says Daniel Levy at Britain's Guardian, just keeping everyone at the table will make Moscow a success. Slowly building "mutual understanding" could make it possible by year's end to strike a deal that will "deliver a partial enrichment freeze in return for partial sanctions relief." That won't end the Iranian nuclear threat for good, but it would prevent a surge that would give Tehran its first atomic bomb, and keep Israel's fighter planes on the ground, both of which should be considered victories.
3. We need to throw Tehran a bone
Simply negotiating a deal to keep negotiating isn't enough, says Dennis Ross at The New Republic. Every minute the diplomats talk, Iran keeps enriching and "the clock toward the 'zone of immunity' the Israelis fear keeps ticking." Every inch closer Iran gets to the point where nothing can stop it from acquiring the bomb, Israel's incentive to hold off on a military strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities weakens. So let's go directly to the heart of the matter and "offer Iran a civil nuclear power capability." If they take the deal, crisis averted. If they say no, the world will have its proof that Tehran's intentions are anything but peaceful.