Opening Positions for Talks with Iran

On the radar: U.S. says close Fordo, give up 20% and cease production; Iran hints at 20% halt; Patience in negotiations; DPRK rocket in place; Heavier third stage; Pillar on the U.S. proposal; DPRK preps for nuclear test; and How to Start World War III Without Even Trying.

April 9, 2012 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Mary Kaszynski

U.S. proposal - At the P5+1 talks with Iran, to be held this Friday in Istanbul, the U.S. will call on Iran to close and eventually dismantle the Fordo facility, halt 20% enriched uranium, and give up its 20% stockpile, NYT’s David Sanger and Steven Erlanger report.

Hints from Iran - Iran may be willing to halt production of 20% enriched uranium but will not give up its stockpile, Iranian nuclear chief Fereidoun Abbasi told state TV.

--Whether Abbasi’s comments indicate Iran’s official position in the upcoming talks is unclear. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has avoided details of an Iranian proposal, saying “imposing any conditions before the talks would be meaningless." AP reports.

--There may be some overlap between the U.S. and Iran on the question of 20% enrichment. But the other two U.S. demands - dismantlement of Fordo and giving up the stockpile of 20% enriched uranium is "irrational," Iranian nuclear chief Abbasi said. The Guardian’s Julian Borger reports.

Persistent diplomacy - “While an opportunity exists to create a permanent solution to the Iranian nuclear challenge through diplomacy, this opportunity is fragile and uncertain. Therefore, what we need now more than ever is patience,” writes Joel Rubin in The Jewish Chronicle.

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Ready for liftoff - “North Korean space officials have moved all three stages of a long-range rocket into position...vowing to push ahead with their plan in defiance of international warnings,” AP reports.

--The launch is expected to take place between April 12-16.

Unha-3 - The rocket that North Korea is using in its upcoming launch is similar to the Unha-2 it launched in 2009. David Wright at All Things Nuclear assesses that, for the North’s rocket to put a satellite into orbit as advertised, the missile will need to carry more fuel in its third stage and to launch at a steeper trajectory.

--”The launch will still teach North Korea about rocket technology it could use in a missile, but it should be clear from the trajectory whether this was actually an attempt to launch a satellite.”

Tweet - @armscontrolwonk: “Does anyone expect the DPRK to successfully place the satellite in orbit? I don't know anyone with confidence in that new third stage.”

Harsh demands - If the report of the U.S. proposal is true, it’s not a promising start to the P5+1 talks, Paul Pillar writes in The National Interest. “The Western message to Tehran seems pretty clear: we might be willing to tolerate some sort of Iranian nuclear program, but only one consisting of facilities that would suffer significant damage if we, or the Israelis, later decide to bomb it.”

--“There is still ample unexplored negotiating space for reaching an agreement with Tehran. But given the stakes, the administration cannot afford to risk messing up the process by focusing on demands that seem to have more to do with simplifying the task of Israeli military targeteers than anything else.”

The Khamenei conundrum - “No nuclear deal with Tehran can be made without Khamenei, yet it is almost as unlikely that any deal can be made with him,” argues Karim Sadjadpour in The Washington Post.

--”In this context, the utility of continued dialogue and negotiations will not be to resolve our differences with Iran but to prevent our cold conflict from turning hot.”

Tunnels and tests - Recent satellite images of North Korea's northeast Punggye-ri site, where nuclear tests were conducted in 2006 and 2009, show a new underground tunnel. South Korean intelligence officials say the North may be preparing for a third test. From MSNBC.

Dr. Strangelove or... - Stanley Kubrick had a lot of other titles for his classic film “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Screen Crush has Kubrick’s list of possible names.

--Included: “Don’t Knock the Bomb,” “Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying,” and “Strangelove: Nuclear Wiseman.”