"Iran cannot be expected to make big concessions for the sake of a pittance," says Kaveh Afrasiabi, a former adviser to Iranian nuclear negotiation teams from 2004-06. "The talks can achieve concrete progress only if there is symmetry of compromise on both sides and, unfortunately, the West seems disinclined to observe the rule of mutual reciprocity," says Mr. Afrasiabi, now in Cambridge, MA. "Such a hard-line approach is not conducive to successful talks."
Ms. Ashton, speaking on behalf of the P5+1 group (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) laid out the proposal to Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili in the first session of the talks in Baghdad today.
The P5+1 offer requires Iran to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and "immediately" halt uranium enrichment to 20 percent – a level not technically far from weapons-grade of 90 percent – and to ship its stockpile out of the country, according to the Iranian diplomat.
"We are ready to have a compromise on that [20 percent enrichment], as long as it is a step-by-step process," says the diplomat.
But suspending all enrichment – including the lowest levels for reactor fuel – is a red line that Iran says it will never accept. Officials frequently cite Iran's "right" to enrich as a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).