European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced  Friday that nuclear talks between the P5+1 global powers and Iran will begin February 18th in Vienna.
“We have agreed that we will start the talks on February 18 at the U.N. building in Vienna,” Ashton said after what she described as a “really interesting” meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Munich security conference. “It’s a good change of venue to the U.N. office (in Vienna). We are looking forward to seeing you in Iran soon,” Zarif said.
It is not known whether the two discussed recent scandals that have seen Zarif lay a wreath  at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah terrorist who was killed in 2008 after having spent literally decades killing Americans and others, and declare in a CNN interview that the Obama administration was lying  in statements describing Iranian concessions. Zarif’s interview has in particular fueled concerns  that the U.S. and Iran are fundamentally at odds as they enter comprehensive nuclear negotiations. Iran appears to believe that it will be able to retain the vast majority of its nuclear infrastructure and submit only to heightened inspections. An analysis published this month  by the U.S.-based Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS) calculated that – in order to put its nuclear program verifiably beyond use for weaponization – Iran would minimally have to remove 15,000 centrifuges, shut down its uranium enriching underground military bunker at Fordow, downgrade the reactor at its plutonium-production facility at Arak, and agree to a 20-year inspection regime. The Wall Street Journal noted that  the “prescriptions aren’t viewed as particularly harsh or hard-line,” and quoted ISIS head David Albright describing how the study had been developed partly in light of “extensive discussions in recent months with Obama administration officials working on the Iran file.”
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