President has always said we need to let the sanctions do its work in Iran and it may have been the right approach...war hawks will still say we need to be tougher but we will have to see if this is in fact a "turning point"...
From Julian Borger of the Guardian:
Iran hails turning point in nuclear talks
Six-nation group offers concessions including sanctions relief in return for acceptance of limits on uranium enrichment
Iran has declared that negotiations with a group of world powers have reached a "turning point" after it was offered a series of concessions, including sanctions relief on gold and petrochemical exports, in return for acceptance of limits on uranium enrichment.
Two days of talks in the Kazakh city of Almaty between Iran and a six-nation negotiating group ended on Wednesday with an agreement to hold further meetings aimed at finalising a deal.
In return for a limited relaxation of sanctions, the six-nation group – the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China – maintained its insistence that Iran stop making 20%-enriched uranium, which is relatively easy to turn into weapons-grade material.
However, it relaxed its demand that all of Iran's stockpile of about 170kg of 20%-enriched uranium should be shipped out of the country, allowing Iran to retain enough to fuel a research reactor in Tehran.
The six powers also softened the stipulation put forward at a series of abortive meetings last year that an underground enrichment plant at Fordow, in central Iran, should be shut down.
In Almaty the Iranians were asked only to "reduce the readiness" of Fordow while accepting more intrusive monitoring of the facility by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a western diplomat said.
Other officials said enrichment at Fordow would have to be suspended and demonstrable steps taken to ensure it could not be quickly restarted.
The main financial and oil sanctions on Iran would stay in place, but sanctions relief on gold and other precious metals would allow it to sidestep some banking restrictions. The ability to export petrochemical products would allow it to boost foreign currency earnings and potentially increase its domestic oil refining capacity.
The chief of the Iranian delegation, Saeed Jalili, welcomed the offer, saying: "We consider these talks a positive step which could be completed by taking a positive and constructive approach and taking reciprocal steps … We believe this is a turning point."
Nuclear experts from all sides are due to meet in Istanbul on 18 March to hammer out details of the proposal, and another meeting of senior diplomats in Almaty is scheduled for 5 April.
A western diplomat said: "I think we now have traction to get into proper detailed negotiations. This is the first time we have put sanctions relief on the table. Its more than a gesture, it's sending a message. We have shown we are listening and are serious without giving up the major lever we have, which is the oil embargo."
The diplomat said a deal on Iran's 20% uranium could open the way to a more comprehensive agreement later on in which the oil and financial sanctions could be lifted in return for permanent limits on Iran's nuclear programme and robust IAEA monitoring.
"It's more for less," said Shashank Joshi, the author of a study on the Iranian nuclear negotiations, The Permanent Crisis. "It's offering more sanctions relief and asking less of Iran, which is a move in the right direction that many of us have been calling for. What is just as important is the Iranian reaction. They are talking in the same terms about the same things rather than just putting forward diametrically opposed positions."