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So what can we expect from the Baghdad talks? The biggest issue on the table is the IAEA's ability to make intrusive, unannounced inspections of the Iranian nuclear program, including visits to military facilities like Parchin, where the Iranians may have been testing the blasting devices that can initiate a nuclear explosion. The U.N. has also demanded that Iran suspend its enrichment program. Neither of those concessions is likely to be made in Baghdad. The Iranians have made noises about suspending their program to enrich uranium to 20% purity, a precursor to the creation of a nuclear bomb, in return for an easing of the sanctions. Iran may agree to ship out its 20%-pure uranium in return for fuel rods that can be used in its medical reactor, which creates isotopes for radiation therapy in Tehran. Or it may offer to simply talk about these possibilities. It won't agree to suspend its program to enrich uranium to 3.5% purity, the level necessary for peaceful nuclear power.
If Iran offers to suspend production of 20% uranium, that will be big news. And there will be pressure to ease the sanctions. It is possible that the Russians or the Chinese--or even the French, now that Nicolas Sarkozy is no longer in charge--will concede, which is what the Iranians are obviously hoping for. The true test of the Obama Administration's diplomacy will be if it can hold the coalition together and continue to demand rigorous IAEA inspections. Only if the coalition holds, and no immediate concessions are made, will we see if Iran is really serious about negotiations this time.
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