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Iranians Win Information War At Geneva Talks

Leaks to the Iranian press have been dominating coverage of Geneva, while western powers stay tight-lipped.

Posted on November 23, 2013, at 3:57 p.m. ET

Pool / Reuters

GENEVA — During a tough third round of nuclear negotiations in Geneva, none of the major world powers have been leaking a thing to the press — except Iran, which has come to dominate the flow of information as western countries stay tight-lipped.

The only delegations who are regularly briefing their press corps are the Russians and the Iranians. And the only press corps that is regularly producing new tidbits of information — true or not — is the Iranian one.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on Saturday that the talks may have to be extended another day, citing difficult negotiations and remaining differences between the negotiators. None of the other delegations have been citing the possibility of talks continuing, and whether or not it's true, the possibility seemed likely as of Saturday night in Geneva — partly because of Araghchi's statement, which has cast a mood of doubt over the negotiations, and partly because the Iranian media seem to have pre-emptively launched a blame game against the other negotiators in case the deal fails.

"West arrogance blocks P5+1 progress with Iran," blared a Press TV headline on Saturday.

"Potential failure to reach an interim agreement at the P5+1 negotiations in Geneva this week can be attributed to various factors: The lingering damage to confidence caused by the French spoiler lobbed into the previous round earlier this month; the subsequent lack of commitment by the US to pursue the undoubted progress that had been achieved towards closing a deal; and the intrusive lobbying by Israel and its formidable American supporters in Congress creating unhelpful background tensions," Press TV reports. "But another major factor is this: Western arrogance. The United States, Britain and France are still behaving as hegemonic powers whose arrogance blinds them to their own outrageous double standards and hypocrisy, and prevents them from treating Iran with mutual respect."

Spin from the Iranian side is not the only thing to leak — details of what's in the deal may have leaked from them as well.

Nasim Online, an Iranian website, ran a story on Saturday saying that a source had revealed details of the deal that is currently on the table, including $8.5 billion - $10 billion in sanctions relief in exchange for Iran suspending 20 percent enrichment for six months, eliminating its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, and agreeing to limit enrichment to five percent. Whether or not the details of the Nasim report are true, they were excitedly passed around Twitter and filled an information vacuum in the absence of other leaks.

The Iranians are also treating their press corps in grand style. The Iranian mission to the U.N. has been bringing in Persian food in vans for the reporters.

As for whether the talks will drag on into Sunday: "Impossible to predict," said Michael Mann, the spokesman for EU High Representative Cathy Ashton, who is presiding over the talks and has been meeting frequently with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.