Negotiators from the P5+1 countries and Iran failed to reach a breakthrough in Istanbul last week at thelatest round of talks over Iran's nuclear program. Nevertheless, it seems that, once again, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to keep negotiations alive with his seemingly never-ending bazaar-style haggling.
The reason is simple: Ahmadinejad's administration requires a positive outcome, at least on paper, so that the U.S., its European allies and the United Nations Security Council lift the debilitating economic sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic. So despite last week's stalemate, the latest of many, Ahmadinejad is dangling the carrot of compromise to lure the West back to the table. In doing so, he has little to lose and much to gain. After all, for the West, signing a deal with Iran is only the first hurdle -- enforcing it within Iran will be an even greater battle. Ahmadinejad's expectation seems to be that, if only he can get both the P5+1 and his domestic political rivals to go along with a deal, he can have his Yazdi cookie -- the Iranian equivalent of the proverbial cake -- and eat it too.
So, on Jan. 23, Iran's semi-officialMehr News Agency quoted public statements by both Ahmadinejad and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili, who represented Tehran in Istanbul on Jan. 21-22, as saying that the meeting should not be seen in a negative light. They cast the outcome as simply one more maneuver in ongoing multilateral discussions. Ahmadinejad announced to a crowd at the Caspian port city of Rasht, "Future rounds of talks between Iran and the [P5+1] could yield a good agreement."