Iran is looking to negotiate with the IAEA ahead of Baghdad talks

The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran seem to have made headway in negotiations over the country’s disputed nuclear program. Western diplomats said that Iran appeared ready to agree to a "structured approach" to addressing the agency’s questions. The IAEA and Iran will meet again on May 21, two days prior to ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran seem to have made headway in negotiations over the country's disputed nuclear program. Western diplomats said that Iran appeared ready to agree to a "structured approach" to addressing the agency's questions. The IAEA and Iran will meet again on May 21, two days prior to talks scheduled in Baghdad with six global powers, to discuss Iran's nuclear development. A western diplomat said, "There are still some outstanding issues but there is a possibility an agreement [will be] reached on Monday." An agreement with the IAEA could put Iran in a better position in Baghdad's talks. However, skepticism remains. Many fear that Iran is simply trying to buy time, as previous talks have failed. Meanwhile, an OPEC report shows Iranian oil production declined by 12 percent in the first three month of the year. Iran is the second-largest producer of crude oil, but heavy sanctions have made it increasingly more difficult for the country to find buyers. Western negotiators hope the decline in the oil industry will force greater Iranian flexibility in next week's nuclear talks. However, Iranian oil minister, Rostam Ghasemi denied the reports saying, "our oil is selling very well."

Syria

Two days after his re-election, opposition Syrian National Council president Burhan Ghalioun has offered to resign in response to accusations that he is monopolizing power. He was also blamed for "political and organizational failure." He said, "I will resign immediately following the Council's approval of a candidate who can be accepted by the revolutionary movement on the ground." The announcement came after threats from the activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, to split from the opposition alliance. Ghalioun said he did not want to be divisive and would step down to "preserve unity." The head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, said that no number of monitors would put a permanent end to violence without a commitment to dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition. There are currently 257 U.N. monitors in Syria. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the observers have had a "dampening effect" on violence, but have not put a stop to it. Additionally, he said the death toll in the Syrian conflict has reached 10,000. Shelling has continued in the northwestern city of Rastan and an explosion and clashes were reported in Damascus. Thousands of protesters have assembled in what is deemed "the largest protest in Aleppo since the beginning of the revolution."

The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran seem to have made headway in negotiations over the country’s disputed nuclear program. Western diplomats said that Iran appeared ready to agree to a "structured approach" to addressing the agency’s questions. The IAEA and Iran will meet again on May 21, two days prior to talks scheduled in Baghdad with six global powers, to discuss Iran’s nuclear development. A western diplomat said, "There are still some outstanding issues but there is a possibility an agreement [will be] reached on Monday." An agreement with the IAEA could put Iran in a better position in Baghdad’s talks. However, skepticism remains. Many fear that Iran is simply trying to buy time, as previous talks have failed. Meanwhile, an OPEC report shows Iranian oil production declined by 12 percent in the first three month of the year. Iran is the second-largest producer of crude oil, but heavy sanctions have made it increasingly more difficult for the country to find buyers. Western negotiators hope the decline in the oil industry will force greater Iranian flexibility in next week’s nuclear talks. However, Iranian oil minister, Rostam Ghasemi denied the reports saying, "our oil is selling very well."

Syria

Two days after his re-election, opposition Syrian National Council president Burhan Ghalioun has offered to resign in response to accusations that he is monopolizing power. He was also blamed for "political and organizational failure." He said, "I will resign immediately following the Council’s approval of a candidate who can be accepted by the revolutionary movement on the ground." The announcement came after threats from the activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, to split from the opposition alliance. Ghalioun said he did not want to be divisive and would step down to "preserve unity." The head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, said that no number of monitors would put a permanent end to violence without a commitment to dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition. There are currently 257 U.N. monitors in Syria. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the observers have had a "dampening effect" on violence, but have not put a stop to it. Additionally, he said the death toll in the Syrian conflict has reached 10,000. Shelling has continued in the northwestern city of Rastan and an explosion and clashes were reported in Damascus. Thousands of protesters have assembled in what is deemed "the largest protest in Aleppo since the beginning of the revolution."

Headlines  

Arguments and Analysis

‘Egypt’s second republic’ (The Economist)

"Whoever captures Egypt’s presidency will face a daunting task. The 15 months since Mr Mubarak’s fall have seen foreign-exchange reserves haemorrhage by two-thirds, the official unemployment rate rise by a quarter to nearly 13%, and the government budget deficit surge to 10% of GDP, financed by borrowing at inexorably rising rates that now nudge 17%. The budget shortfall could be resolved at a stroke by scrapping energy subsidies, but in a country where 40% of people live in poverty, this is a sizzling political potato. Tricky constitutional questions also loom. One concerns how to frame relations between religion and the state: should sharia remain, as before, a guiding principle for legislation, or should its specific rulings be binding? Another is what to do with the army, whose tentacles reach everywhere. Even more daunting is the task of dismantling the shadowy matrix of security agencies and operatives whose unaccountable powers accumulated over 60 years and permeate laws, institutions and the 6m-strong bureaucracy. "The religious-secular divide is largely artificial," reckons Hossam Bahgat, a prominent human-rights lawyer. "The real, dangerous struggle is between civil society and the deep state.""

‘Israel in Peril’ (David Shulman, The New York Review of Books)

"Buried somewhere inside all this is a bad Israeli conscience about the treatment of Palestinians since 1948-a conscience repressed but still somehow alive (not, perhaps, in Netanyahu). The rationalizing vision pasted over that bad conscience, a vision simple-minded, self-righteous, dangerous, and immoral, underlies the dilemma that Peter Beinart has eloquently and bravely stated in The Crisis of Zionism. He articulates it as a conflict, very familiar by now, between liberal, democratic values and a proto-racist, atavistic nationalism. This conflict has created two Jewish states in the Middle East. As Beinart says, "To the west [of the Green Line, the pre-1967 border], Israel is a flawed but genuine democracy. To the east, it is an ethnocracy"…Even apart from the disastrous political consequences of current Israeli policy, it is critical to recognize that what goes on in the territories is not a matter of episodic abuse of basic human rights, something that could be corrected by relatively minor, ad hoc actions of protest and redress. Nothing could be further from the truth. The occupation is systemic in every sense of the word. The various agencies involved-government bureaucrats and their ministries and budgets, the army, the blue-uniformed civilian police, the border police, the civil administration (that is, the official Occupation Authority), the courts (in particular, the military courts in the territories, but also Israeli civil courts inside the Green Line), the host of media commentators who toe the government line and perpetuate its regnant mythologies, and so on-are all inextricably woven into a system whose logic is apparent to anyone with firsthand experience of it. That logic is one of protecting the settlement project and taking the land. The security aspect of the occupation is, in my view, close to trivial; were it a primary goal, the situation on the ground would look very different."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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