By CNN's Tara Kangarlou
There have been some major developments in regards to Iran’s controversial nuclear program since last Friday, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sent a comprehensive report to its member states and the Security Council that presents significant steps in Iran’s on-going nuclear negotiations—a report that was immediately followed by a surprise meeting between Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif and High Representative Ashton, which were followed by President Obama’s foreign policy speech on Wednesday at West Point Academy.
According to the report that came from IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, independently received and verified by CNN, the Islamic Republic has reduced its Uranium enrichment to almost 80 percent; detailing that “Iran has not enriched UF6 above 5% U-235 at any of its declared facilities. As a result of dilution and conversion that has taken place over the same period, Iran’s stock of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 has decreased from 209.1 kg to 38.4 kg.”
The IAEA’s quarterly report also indicates that “Iran has implemented the seven practical measures that it agreed with the Agency in February 2014 in relation to the Framework for Cooperation and the Agency is analyzing the information provided by Iran.”
Two days after Amano’s report, Zarif and Ashton held a surprising two-day meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. After the meetings, Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi described the talks as being “long and productive.”
While Iran’s transparency over its nuclear program remains a divisive matter, the IAEA’s report indicates that Islamic Republic has and continues to provide access to various workshops, storage facilities and its much controversial centrifuges—a significant step that highlights the issues of transparency, which has long been one of the biggest concerns for the United States and its allies.
“This report has been one of the IAEA’s most positive reports on Iran’s nuclear program in the past few years.” said Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst at the International Crisis Group.
Based on IAEA’s report, this is the first time that the Islamic Republic is openly allowing investigation into the “possible military dimensions (PMD)”, which takes a deeper look into the country’s alleged military intentions in regards to its nuclear technology.
“It is heartening to see that Iran and the IAEA have turned over a new leaf—especially when it gets to a sensitive issue like PMD, one step at a time is good walking.” Vaez also says that these findings will most likely be welcomed by the six world powers negotiating Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the coming months.
“Even if all of that is true and let's assume it is what matters much more is the substance of what's being negotiated now particularly on the issue of capacity and capability.” said Aaron David Miller Vice President for New Initiatives at the Wilson Center and former advisor to the U.S. Department of State.
The latest of these on-going talks between Iran and the global powers, was held in Vienna on May 13th; and while no significant result came out of the talks, upon departure from Vienna, the Iranian Foreign Minister posted a hopeful message on his twitter page saying, “Agreement is possible. But illusions need to go—and that Opportunity shouldn't be missed again like in 2005.”
Around the same time last week, in the far East, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met with his Chinese counterpart in Shanghai, where he told reporters that “coming up with a six-month negotiations was not easy, and the developments of these past six months indicate that a final agreement is still possible.”
The past week’s nuclear news all came full circle as U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Wednesday, May 28th during a commencement speech at West Point Academy, where he laid much of his foreign policy plan for the next few years.
As he acknowledged the effectiveness of sanctions over Iran, the President took credit in his diplomatic approach and how the United States is now “peacefully” solving its differences with the Islamic Republic. The President concluded his thoughts on Iran by saying, “for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement, one that is more effective and durable than what we could have achieved through the use of force.”
While many inside Iran express hope toward the negotiations and the country’s transparency that the latest IAEA report projects, inside the United States, some still argue that moving forward requires more work.
“The agreement that Iran and the P5+1 are negotiating is about the future; and here the issue is less about what Iran has done with regards to the interim agreement than it is about what Iran plans to do now.” Miller said.
Last November, Iran and six other world powers reached a historic deal in Geneva and based on the accord, Iran agreed to cooperate further in verifying its activities and involvements with international Atomic watchdog in hopes of reaching a final accord, that’s as of now set for July 20th.
“Probably never before has there been so much political will among so many on both sides to clinch a comprehensive nuclear deal. Whether it will be sufficient to overcome the remaining hurdles remains to be seen.” said Vaez
Iran has long argued its intentions for nuclear technology is for energy use, which is acceptable based on the International Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The 6-month agreement officially went into effect in January of 2013 and both sides have agreed to a July 20th deadline.
Tara Kangarlou is an International Desk Editor for CNN in Atlanta.