Q11: What happened at the end of this last round of talks in Geneva? Did Iran walk out, indicating that they are not serious about striking a deal?

Contrary to some assertions, Iran did not walk out or “blow up” the talks. The demand from the P-5+1 changed after an agreement had nearly been reached; the Iranian team then needed to go back to Tehran to see if they can have more chips to stay in the poker game.

The French, who made the new demands, have long had an issue with the structure of the talks, wanting to make them more robust in the initial phase. More specifically, they wanted the initial deal to include an agreement on limiting development on Iran’s heavy water reactor near Arak, which could eventually produce plutonium, another fissile material capable of being used in a nuclear weapon.

Arak, which Iran claims is to be used for medical isotopes, will need to be fully addressed in the final deal. Construction at Arak has been perpetually delayed, and the Iranians will not be able to use the facility until at least 2014. Most importantly, Iran has no reprocessing facility, which means it has no capacity to extract plutonium for a weapon. One possibility for a final agreement is that Iran gets foreign assistance to convert the reactor from heavy water to light water, which would not pose the same worry regarding plutonium.

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