Ashton Jalili Iran Baghdad
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) chats with Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili as they pose for the media before their meeting in Baghdad May 23, 2012. Photo by Reuters
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The Baghdad round of P5+1 talks with Iran, now over, may be seen by some as a failure, after the two sides did not succeed in agreeing on a single detail, save for another, third round of talks, in three weeks in Moscow – it is actually though a feather in the west's chief negotiator's cap, the much maligned Baroness Katherine Ashton.

While many Israeli and western (including British) diplomats have dismissed her capabilities of acting tough and facing up to the wily Iranian chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, her insistence over the last two days of talks in Baghdad in not agreeing to any weakening of international sanctions on Iran, before the regime commits to reversing its uranium enrichment program, will enhance her credibility. Ashton of course may have been forced into this position by the American delegation to the talks, who are certainly the most hardline of the six nations, but she was the one who had to go head-to-head with Jalili, and take the flak.

Expectations of an agreement coming out of the Baghdad talks, while talked up by western diplomats in advance, were exaggerated to begin with. The nuclear issues are much too complex for a deal to be agreed upon in two short days, but the buildup and now the anticlimax could actually help the diplomats eventually achieve their objective.

In three weeks, sanctions will have bit even harder into the Iranian economy, with new European sanctions on its oil exports looming at the end of the month, and the regime will be under much greater pressure. And after each side played hard to get in Baghdad, perhaps impressing audiences and skeptics at home and away, they may have more leeway to compromise in Moscow.

Benjamin Netanyahu probably will not repeat his "freebie" remark from the aftermath of the previous talks in Istanbul, but he will almost certainly find a way to voice his displeasure and accuse the diplomats of allowing the Iranians more time to further their nuclear ambitions. But that is his role in these negotiations, and if Netanyahu wasn't there, someone else would have to play bad-cop and keep the military option hovering over Tehran.