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October 21, 2013

Progress in Nuclear Talks with Iran, but Still No Breakthroughs


New talks over Iran’s nuclear program recently concluded without any breakthroughs, but players on both sides called the meetings substantive and forward thinking.

The United States and other Western countries have long sought to prevent Iran from pursuing nuclear technology in order to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iranian leaders and possibly terror groups.

Iran, on the other hand, insists that its nuclear program is peaceful in nature, and necessary for Iran’s economic development. Nuclear power plants can generate electricity in a more efficient and cleaner way than many other traditional methods such as burning oil or coal.

“The Iranian proposal was a new proposal with a level of seriousness and substance that we had not seen before,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “Having said that, no one should expect a breakthrough overnight. I mean, these are complicated issues, they’re technical issues.”

Iran’s new foreign minister expressed a desire to move nuclear talks forward so as to focus on other issues. Iranian leaders are especially interested in lifting the economic sanctions (limits on what other countries can buy and sell with Iran) that have created shortages of food, medicine and other goods around the country.

“There are more important issues that we need to deal with,” he said. “And the right of Iran to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, including enrichment, can in fact be exercised with the necessary political will without any proliferation concerns. And that is what we are going to move forward and achieve, in my view.”

However, Russia, which recently played a key role in chemical weapons negotiations with Syria, expressed skepticism over the negotiation process.

“The positions of the Iranian side and the group of six powers are wide apart from each other,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. “The distance can be measured in kilometers, while advances forward can be measured in steps, half-a-meter each.”

The next round of talks will be held in just three weeks back in Geneva, Switzerland.

Warm up questions
  1. What do you know about Iran?
    • Where is it located?
    • What important historic events took place in the country in the last 65 years? How might that effect what their goals are?
    • Who are their allies? Who are their enemies?
  2. Why would a country want to have nuclear capabilities?
  3. How is nuclear energy used besides for weapons?
  4. What is the relationship between the United States and Iran?
  5. What do you know about negotiations? How do they work?
Discussion questions
  1. Do you think that talking is the best way to solve the problem of Iran’s nuclear program? What other ways might this problem be sorted out?
  2. Who else might have an interest in the outcome of the talks besides the “big six”?
  3. Do the people of Iran deserve to suffer the consequences of harsh economic sancations or should the government bear the full brunt of the sanctions? What would that look like?
  4. Do you think that when the talks resume in three weeks that progress will be made? Why or why not?
  5. What do you think the goal of the negotations are for each side?
  6. Why was a the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief chosen to be a lead negotiator instead of President Obama or John Kerry?
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