A month after multilateral nuclear negotiations with Iran kicked off, the country has invited nuclear inspectors from global powers and neighboring countries to tour its nuclear sites. Though the invited countries to visit later this month have not been announced, Iran says it extended them to diplomats from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, but not from the U.S. The move is being seen as a ploy to sabotage or delay the ongoing international push for Iran to roll back its controversial nuclear program. Here's what reporters and analysts are saying about the invitations and their significance.
- Europe and U.S. Dismiss as 'Distraction' From Talks Foreign Policy's David Kenner writes, "The invitation comes as Iran and the 'P5+1'-- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany--prepare for a second round of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, scheduled to be held in Istanbul in late January. European envoys said that they were unlikely to accept the invitation until after the Istanbul summit, if at all." The U.S. meanwhile, through State Department spokesman P.J. Croweley, Kenner reports, dismissed the invitation as "'a clever ploy, but ... not a substitute for Iran's responsibilities to the IAEA.'"
- Probably Just Iran's Attempt to Divide Antagonists The New York Times' Mark Landler says this move "seemed calculated to divide the alliance of nations opposed to Iran's nuclear ambitions before the next round of negotiations over the program." Invitations went out to China and Russia, which have been crucial U.S. allies in sanctioning Iran but "voiced reluctance" about adding further sanctions. He adds that the international coalition "has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with the Iranian government over its enrichment of uranium."
- Specifically, to Further Separate U.S. from China and Russia Al Jazeera explains, "The US, the greatest critic of Iran's nuclear strivings, was not among those invited. China, and to a lesser degree Russia, have acted to dilute originally harsh sanctions measures proposed by the US and its Western allies. ... The outreach to Moscow and Beijing represented by Tehran's offer to visit therefore appeared to be an attempt to exacerbate any differences between the Eastern and Western powers meeting the Iranians in Istanbul."
- Repeat of Similar 'Tour' from 2008 The Associated Press's Nasser Karimi reminds us, "The offer of a visit comes more than three years after six diplomats from developing nations visited Iran's uranium ore conversion site at Isfahan, which turns raw uranium into the gas that is then fed into enriching centrifuges. Participating diplomats told reporters they could not assess Iran's nuclear aims based on what they saw there. The new offer appeared more wide ranging, both in terms of who was invited and sites to be visited."