World News Brief, Wednesday February 19

Iran nuclear talks begin; China rejects UN criticism of its policy of sending North Korean defectors back home; antigovernment protests in Bangkok kill four; Pakistan suspends Taliban talks; US diplomats expelled from Venezuela; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Iran Nuclear Talks Begin in Vienna

Iran and six world powers began talks on Tuesday to reach a final settlement on Tehran's disputed nuclear program. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the process, which could span many months, "will not lead anywhere" (Reuters). Hardliners in Iran and the United States are suspicious of the talks, but analysts say that many leaders involved in the process are willing and capable of making a deal, especially as failure could renew a state of confrontation with Tehran (CSMonitor). Meanwhile, Iran's largest private lender, Bank Mellat, is suing the UK government for $4 billion in damages after the UK Supreme Court ruled that the government was wrong to impose sanctions on the bank, an action that's expected to be replicated by other Iranian companies seeking damages (BBC).


"There is no tolerable end to Iran's nuclear imbroglio other than a negotiated settlement. Given the disparity of power between the United States and Iran, Washington has an opportunity to craft a durable accord for arms control while preserving its coercive leverage. Such are the advantages of being a superpower with the world's largest economy and intact alliances. But for that to happen, the United States must stop underestimating its power and overestimating its adversary's resilience," writes CFR Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh in the Washington Post.

"American insistence on 'zero enrichment in Iran' is one reason for the failure of past talks. Last November's deal was only possible because the U.S. was prepared to be more realistic. A comprehensive agreement must offer something for both sides. Measures that go beyond the NPT may be required for a time to build confidence. But Iran cannot be expected to agree to them forever," writes Hossein Mousavian in the Financial Times.

"We do not strengthen such reformist voices as exist when we appear weak. The best argument such 'moderates'—if they exist—could make is that aggressive actions in Syria or support for terror overseas or refusal to compromise on nukes are dangerous for Iran and threaten its security interests. When we act in ways that undermine this argument and suggest that we will do anything to avoid a confrontation, we strengthen the hardest of hardliners," writes CFR Senior Fellow Elliott Abrams in the Weekly Standard.


Pacific Rim

China Rejects UN Criticism in North Korea Report

China said it rejected "unreasonable criticism" from a UN report on human rights abuses in North Korea that said Beijing may be "aiding and abetting crimes against humanity" by sending defectors back to North Korea to face torture or executions (Reuters).

THAILAND: Four people were killed and dozens were wounded after riot police tried to clear out antigovernment protests around Thailand's capital, Bangkok, on Tuesday (AP).


Pakistan suspends Taliban talks

US diplomats expelled from Venezuela

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