• Toughened international sanctions are getting Iran’s attention, with the very real prospect of an embargo on Iran’s oil exports going into effect this summer taking an even bigger bite out of Iran’s economy
• Western powers stopped publicly demanding that Iran give up all uranium enrichment, with US officials suggesting that a deal might be worked out in which Iran retained enrichment capabilities, under strict international monitoring, for civilian power generation
• Israel’s hints at imminent airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities focused minds on both sides of the talks.
On that last point, some experts note that it was around the time of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington in March that President Obama publicly ruled out a policy of “containment” toward Iran, under which the US would accept a nuclear Iran but develop a regional policy to limit Iran’s influence and the spread of nuclear weapons around the Middle East.
Obama continues to insist that a nuclear Iran is not acceptable and that “all options” for preventing that “remain on the table.”
But Mr. Netanyahu’s tough talk, including in Washington, also spawned a debate in Israel that left hawkish civilian leaders pitted against military and intelligence officials, both serving and retired, who sounded much less enthusiastic about the prospects for an Israeli military intervention in Iran.
Yet all of these factors could turn out to be temporary, with the result that the current quietude over Iran proves to be short-lived, experts add – especially if the May 23 talks in Baghdad collapse and indeed prove to have been the “last chance” for diplomacy that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described them as last month.