Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tentative Agreement with Iran

The multilateral talks with Iran may have yielded some fruit. Tehran has tentatively agreed to transfer approximately 75% of its known enriched uranium stock to Russia where it will be enriched to 20% purity. From there, it will be transferred to France for further processing and then shipped back to Tehran for use in its medical research reactor. This deal would leave Tehran with about 300 kilograms of low enriched uranium in its own stockpile. Tehran has the option of further enriching this material itself, but it will yield only about 6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, which is only a fifth of what is needed to make a bomb. So in effect, Tehran has agreed to postpone its bomb-making threshold for about a year (danger room has estimated an even shorter timeline of about three to four months) in return for international participation (and therefore inspection) of its nuclear processes and international recognition of its right to refine uranium.

Israel, of course, is quite concerned about all this. Israel’s Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has expressed his disapproval of the draft agreement and the concomitant legitimization of an Iranian civilian nuclear program. He claims that Iran’s real motive is the production of nuclear weapons and this deal will only give Iran a veneer of compliance while Tehran secretly perfects its bomb-making capabilities. Some elements in Tehran are also upset with the agreement, claiming that it violates Iran’s sovereignty. The deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament has publicly criticized the agreement; however, Iran’s representative to the IAEA has stated that this plan was an Iranian proposal. The United States is hoping that this deal will buy some time to work out a more comprehensive deal that will permanently address Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Russia is just happy that they don’t have to sanction anyone.

Is this a policy victory for the US? Probably not. At best, this deal is just a way of postponing the really difficult decisions. It does, however, prove that Iran and the United States are capable of talking to each other. These are the highest level talks that have occurred between the two countries in three decades. Considering this and the fact that the deal was reached after only three days of negotiations, it seems quite possible that there is a good chance for further negotiations on other issues. Functionalists rejoice!


General Franklin Kirby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
General Franklin Kirby said...

Not so fast. Today Iran gave the IAEA notification that I could not yet provide a final answer, much to U.S. chagrin. Apparently, Iran "needs until the middle of next week to provide a response." Hopefully they ultimately accept and please just about every other interested country. If not it will be interesting to see the U.S. and Russian response.

US displeased at delay in Iran response on uranium.