Herman Nackaerts, who headed the IAEA team, said the two sides would meet again on Feb. 12 in the Iranian capital. That’s after Iran’s proposed timeframe to restart talks with the world powers talks. The official IRNA news agency reported that envoys were working on an early February resumption.
There has been no official response from Washington or the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, but reopening talks that quickly appears difficult without even an agreement on where they would be held.
Iranian authorities, meantime, have been increasingly candid about the blows from sanctions, including plans for an austerity budget in March that will include new and highly unpopular taxes. Last week, the head of parliament’s budget committee, Gholam Reza Kateb, said Iran’s revenues from oil and gas exports have dropped by 45 percent. The country’s currency also has fallen by more than 40 percent since last year.
On Saturday, Iran’s IAEA delegate, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, repeated Iran’s insistence that it will never fully halt uranium enrichment, which is permitted under the U.N. nuclear proliferation accords signed by Iran and most other nations.
“Khamenei now has material imperatives as well as some political space to negotiate,” said the analyst Maloney. “But any deal must satisfy the hardline base that remains deeply distrustful of the international community and confident in Iran’s capacity to withstand hardship.”
Another political twist for Iran could be the elections in June to pick a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been significantly weakened by attempts to challenge the authority of Khamenei and the ruling clerics.
Ahmadinejad’s opponents might want to postpone any kind of serious nuclear negotiations with the West until after the elections to avoid giving his administration a higher profile in its final months. At the same time, hardline factions also could be wary of making any kind of major concessions to the West before the vote, which is expected to bring a Khamenei loyalist to office.
“There could be a tendency now to stick to the old, radical approach for now,” said Rasool Nafisi, an Iranian affairs analyst at Strayer University in Virginia. “They don’t want to be the ones who blink first in the showdowns with the West.”