It May Not Be All Bad, Say Obama’s People
The coup pulled off in Tehran by Brazil and Turkey with Russian backing was contrived too deftly for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice to unravel – even by lightning diplomatic sleight of hand.
To rescue the administration's Iran policy from total collapse, the two worked at top speed to cobble together a sanctions motion feeble enough to command a broad front and have it tabled at the UN Security Council on Tuesday, May 18 – a bare 24 hours after Brazilian and Turkish leaders had Iran sign a 10-point commitment to deposit less than half of its low-grade enriched uranium in Turkey in exchange for fuel rods.
To gain Russian and Chinese endorsement, the draft's content was heavily watered down with hardly any new measures proposed. This process finally cut short Washington's serpentine efforts to get Moscow and Beijing to collaborate on tough sanctions for halting Iran's acquisition of a nuclear bomb. So, to keep the vestigial draft motion moving along the rutted path up to Security Council approval, there will have to be more chops and changes.
All the same, the week's debacles over Iran prompted a new, hopeful line of thinking in Washington. Administration officials told DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Washington sources the cloud may have a silver lining, after all. They argued that, in the end, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva "Lula" and Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan undeniably managed to extract three concessions which Iran denied in former rounds of talks with the Six-Power bloc of the US, Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany.
Obama officials see a silver lining
1. After endless haggling, Iran has agreed to ship a total of 1,200 kilograms of its lightly enriched uranium overseas for further enrichment.
2. It has also consented to shipping the entire quantity all in one batch abroad, after long insisting on dribs and drabs. Washington's main consideration was and is that it is safe to leave Iran with enough enriched uranium for building one or two bombs because it was sure Tehran would not cross that threshold until it had enough weapons-grade uranium in hand for assembling an arsenal of 10 to 12 warheads.
3. Tehran had always objected to the enriched uranium swap taking place outside Iran. Now, Turkey was accepted as a clearing house for the exchange.
Those sources go on to argue that if Tehran could be prevailed upon to give way on those three points, why not go for more? More concessions might be going with the right kind of pressure – not necessarily from the United States. US officials accordingly drafted a set of demands which they believe are worth presenting to Tehran in the hope of a substantial reward. If they are met, then a US-Iranian nuclear showdown might be delayed by a year – or even two – and the risk averted of an Israeli military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
The three concessions as building blocks for more
These are the new demands:
A. Iran must abandon its announced intention of continuing to enrich uranium at home from a low 3.5 percent to 19.5 percent grade. Since the Iranian-Turkish-Brazilian agreement allows for overseas processing to 19.5 percent, Iran has nothing to lose by halting the centrifuges spinning at its plants since February. According to our Iranian sources, some 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20- percent are already in stock.
B. If Iran complies with A., Washington will guarantee a regular supply of fuel rods for the light water reactor at Bushehr which the Russians have promised to have up and running by late summer. This would entail the US withdrawing its strong objections to Russia finishing the reactor, while at the same time internationalizing the supply of fuel rods and taking it out of Moscow's hands.
C. Iran's consent to the reprocessing of low-grade enriched uranium outside its borders must be extended to further quantities. Since negotiations began last year, the 1,200 kilos of low-enriched uranium to be exported – then three-quarters of Iran's total stock – has almost doubled.
The Americans will ask Tehran to split future amounts into batches of predetermined size for overseas upgrading to 19.5 percent, and insist that the reprocessing take place in Russia, France or Holland, the only countries with the technology for making the product unusable for military purposes.
In this way, Iran would never accumulate enough of this product for further enrichment to weapons-grade.
D. Iran must fully comply with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency's demand to open up more nuclear facilities to monitors and admit more inspectors to its suspected military projects.
E. Iran must give part with answers to long years of IAEA queries about the military aspects of its nuclear industry.
Who will put these demands to Iran? Its Brazilian or Turkish chums? Or why not let the IAEA take this starring role in future nuclear diplomacy and recover some of its lost relevance? But first, the Obama administration needs to find out if there are any real grounds for its sudden upbeat mood after a lousy week – in other words, will Tehran play along and meet those five demands?
The answer is brutally clear: Not a chance, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources. Tehran will never negotiate on – or lay to rest – any queries about the military nature of its nuclear program.
Transparency there is not an option.