Over the course of an hour in Geneva on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif presented his country's "revolutionary" proposal to "end the crisis and open new horizons." He spoke in English and used PowerPoint , raising the expectations of the world as if he had come to sell us an iPhone 6.
For the Iranians, the deal is quite simple: Let us continue to enrich uranium (at a low level), let us keep our midlevel enriched uranium in the country and don't make us shut down our nuclear facilities (both the ones that enrich uranium and the ones that produce plutonium, two activities that are, of course, extremely vital to a "civilian" nuclear program). And as a bonus, don't allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to conduct surprise visits to our nuclear sites.
Add to this list of Iranian demands the lifting of sanctions, which are exacting great harm on the Iranian economy. Ramin Parham, the author of "The Secret Story of the Iranian Revolution," was correct when he told France 24 news channel on Tuesday that the talks with Iran are a "waste of time." On one hand, the Iranian delegation succeeded in raising the hopes of the six world powers involved in the talks. But on the other hand, all of the powers -- including the U.S. -- said the process is expected to take time, perhaps even a year. Is there really this much time?
The main question is this: What are the powers ready to offer Iran? On Tuesday, it appeared that the West was prepared to make concessions, while the Iranians were not. In other words, after already having accepted the idea that Iran is entitled to have a civilian nuclear program, it seems we are going to reach a point where the world, including the U.S., will allow Iran to enrich uranium to a 3.5 percent level, as The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. Hopefully this report was unfounded, since the level of uranium enrichment is meaningless for Iran, as it already has more than 15,000 centrifuges, including some new-generation ones.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the Iranian delegation did not come to Geneva to waste time. I believe that were it not for the sanctions, the Iranians would be doing exactly what they have done for years -- playing for time until it is no longer possible to do anything.
But the sanctions have led the Iranians to look for results from the talks, and perhaps they will even make certain concessions.
Without the sanctions, these talks would have no meaning. Meanwhile, the biggest concession the Iranians made on Tuesday was to speak in English.