Despite a proposal over Tehran's nuclear arms program being offered Wednesday in Baghdad, distance remains between Western and Iranian negotiators, indicating a deal could be months away.
Western diplomats put forth a plan where Tehran would cease enrichment of uranium to the point of 20 percent purity, the level needed to produce atomic weapons, according to wire reports from the Iraqi capital.
Iranian officials are reviewing the proposal, and may return to Baghdad for more talks Thursday, according to multiple reports.
Experts remain skeptical that the talks will produce a major breakthrough needed to prevent an American or Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear arms facilities.
"I don't think there will be any big announcements out of Baghdad," says Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who has advised the Obama administration and U.S. lawmakers on the issue.
The two sides have very different goals. Western negotiators would prefer a deal under which Iranian officials agreed to suspend all domestic uranium enrichment work, Dubowitz says. But Iran's objective is to "ensure the next round of sanctions is not implemented quickly."
U.S. officials say Iran is hurting financially due to stiffer economic sanctions recently put in place, and are interested in finding a way to ward off a European Union oil embargo set to take effect in July.
That likely is why Tehran agreed Tuesday to allow IAEA inspectors entry into an alleged nuclear weapons site.
"The Iranians are trying to create an illusion that that is a major concession, and that it should require a reciprocal concession," Dubowitz says. "So when the IAEA finally gets in there, they're not going to find much."
The Iranians could counter Wednesday's proposal by requesting the EU oil sanctions be relaxed, Dubowitz says.
John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.
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