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Friday, October 02, 2009

Iran steps back from the brink?

The Washington Post reports that Iran and the P - 5 + 1 reached a 'series of understandings' in Geneva on Thursday, which represent a step back from confrontation between Iran and the West (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
Under the tentative deal, Iran would give up most of its enriched uranium to Russia in order for it to be converted into desperately needed material for a medical research reactor in Tehran. Iran also agreed to let international inspectors visit the newly disclosed uranium-enrichment facility in Qom within two weeks, and then to attend another meeting with negotiators from the major powers by the end of the month. The series of agreements struck at the meeting was in itself unusual because, in the past, the Iranian negotiators have said they would get back with an answer -- and then fail to do so.
If this sounds a little too pat for you, well, you're not the only one. I'll give you my reaction to this in a little bit, but first I'd like to give you John Bolton's reaction.
The outcome of the talks was immediately criticized by former U.N. ambassador John R. Bolton, who as a Bush administration official balked at George W. Bush's efforts to entice Iran into negotiations. "They've now got the United States ensnared in negotiations," he said. "This is like the movie 'Groundhog Day.' " But another Bush-era official, former undersecretary of state R. Nicholas Burns, said that even if talks fail, Obama will have demonstrated that he tried hard to make diplomacy work -- and will win greater support for sanctions.
And everyone agrees that this does not end the standoff:
"This is only a start, and we shall need to see progress through some of the practical steps we have discussed today," said European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who headed the delegation of six nations meeting with Iran. He said he hoped for "rapid and intense" negotiations to follow.

U.S. officials have asserted that the revelation of the Qom facility had diplomatically isolated Iran, leaving it little choice but to cooperate or face new sanctions. Diplomats said the term "sanctions" was never uttered during the lengthy day, though oblique reference was made to a statement issued by foreign ministers of the group last week. That statement raised the possibility of more sanctions if no negotiating track was soon established.
My first thought on seeing this story was that Iran was agreeing to ship most of its known enriched uranium to Russia - not most of its enriched uranium. The New York Times addresses that point:
Iran’s agreement in principle to export most of its enriched uranium for processing — if it happens — would represent a major accomplishment for the West, reducing Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon quickly and buying more time for negotiations to bear fruit.

If Iran has secret stockpiles of enriched uranium, however, the accomplishment would be hollow, a senior American official conceded.
Does anyone really doubt that Iran has secret stockpiles of enriched uranium? And the Times points out other problematic points that were ignored or not clarified in Thursday's announcement.
While American officials refused to specify the amount, other Western officials said it could be 1,200 kilograms, or more than 2,600 pounds, of enriched uranium, which could be as much as 75 percent of Iran’s declared stockpile. While there may be hidden stocks of enriched uranium, such a transfer, if it occurs, “buys some time” for further negotiations, a senior American official said.


Many diplomats and analysts believe that the plant near Qum is only one of a series of hidden installations that Iran has constructed, in addition to its publicly acknowledged ones, for what is considered to be a military program. Iran insists that its program is purely peaceful and that it has a right under the nonproliferation treaty to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. But it has regularly lied to the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency about its facilities.
And then there's another possibility: What if Ahmadinejad and Khameni decide that their negotiator - Saeed Jalili - went too far and exceeded his authority?

What this does do - unfortunately - is take a military option out of Israel's hands for the time being. So while the Post is portraying it as a victory for the West and the Times is writing about the Obama administration's pains to strike a cautious tone, the real winner here is Iran. Once again, it has bought time to continue spinning the centrifuges that are hidden from the public and the inspectors.

What more could go wrong?


At 9:12 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - Israel will watch to see what Iran does - not what it says. If it lives up to its undertakings, Israel can wait. If it emerges it will not honor them, then Israel can still act. All that has happened is Israeli military action has been delayed, not taken off the table.

What happens next is in Iran's hands.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

since the Ahmadinejad Khamenei Gang has little support in the public, they try to provoke an Israeli military strike. By time and patience they will self destruct, no need for bombing.


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