TEHRAN, Iran — As Iran starts a critical round of talks over its nuclear program, its negotiating team may be less interested in reaching a comprehensive settlement than in buying time to further establish its enrichment program, Iranian officials and analysts said.
That is because though Iran finds itself under increased financial pressure from tightening sanctions, officials here say their fundamental approach has essentially worked. In continually pushing forward the nuclear activities — ramping up enrichment and building a bunker mountain enrichment facility — Iran has in effect forced the West to accept a program it insists is for peaceful purposes.
Iranians say their carefully crafted policy has helped moved the goal posts in their favor by making enrichment a reality that the West has been unable to stop — and may now be willing, however grudgingly, to accept.
“Without violating any international laws or the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we have managed to bypass the red lines the West created for us,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is close to the negotiating team.
Iran’s envoys met on Monday with officials with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to discuss the agency’s desire to inspect facilities in Iran that it suspects have been used to test explosives capable of detonating a nuclear charge, which Iran denies.
The talks, however, are also seen as an informal precursor to negotiations scheduled this month in Baghdad, between Iran and the United States and other world powers.
While there remains a significant gap in trust between the two sides — and little likelihood that Iran will give the IAEA the access it wants to a military site — Iran’s public posture fuels a sense that both sides are searching for a way to declare victory and end the crisis.
For the West, officials have said that success, at least in the short term, would mean a deal that has Iran ship all its more highly enriched uranium out of the country, which would slow its ability to potentially build nuclear weapons.
In Tehran, Taraghi was promoting a narrative that might pave the way for public, and political, acceptance of a compromise over a program that has broad public support, even among competing political factions. Enrichment is seen as a matter of national sovereignty and pride.