Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani gave the game away Wednesday, Oct. 6, when he said Iran has more enriched uranium that it needs and would use the surplus as a bargaining chip at the nuclear talks in Geneva next week.
As one of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s most senior loyalists, Larijani’s words in an AP interview signaled concord between his master and US President Barack Obama on a framework for the way forward in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program, that would be built around a halt on 20-percent grade uranium enrichment.
“Through the process of negotiations, yes, things can be said and they can discuss this matter," Larijani said ahead of the talks opening in Geneva on Oct. 15 with representatives of P5+1 forum (the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany).
The suspension of 20-percent enrichment, which takes uranium to a step short of weapons grade, was the key international demand of Iran, although Larijani argued that this level was necessary for its scientific research facility in Tehran.
What Larijani was saying in effect was that, since Tehran has more than the quantity it needs, the US is welcome to collect the surplus and move it out of the country to a any place it chooses.
The P5 +1 = window dressing
Was Iran offering to follow in the footsteps of Libya in 2004 and Syria in 2013?
Not so fast, say DEBKA Weekly’s sources in Washington. Those regimes agreed to dismantle their weapons of mass destruction, whereas Tehran is willing to dismantle only sections of its nuclear program and give up only part of its enriched uranium stockpile.
But which sections and how much enriched uranium will Tehran hold back? Those details are still up for long and wearisome bargaining, starting up in Geneva next week.
Or so it would seem.
It should be noted that the United States, Russia and Iran have been rolling out a meticulously-choreographed performance – first depicting their understanding on Syria’s chemical weapons as a major breakthrough, then moving on to Act II, namely, the Iranian nuclear program. In this regard, the highly-colored role seemingly assigned the P5+1 forum is not entirely true to life.
In fact, the six powers need not expect to sit down to hammer out the important details with Iranian negotiators, but rather glance through the agreed US-Russian-Iranian draft put before them and more or less rubber-stamp it.
Larijani’s words pointed the way: “I view next week’s negotiations positively, because countries that have been applying sanctions on Iran and leveling threats against my country are opting for a political solution.
"As I see it, this change, if I can use the word, is in itself is positive," he said. "I will further explain by saying that if the collective will is at work here, if it takes up a political solution over others, then finding a resolution to the whole problem would not be that difficult a task.”
A tightly closed loop
The Iranian official added: “I will further explain by saying that those countries who used to think that by applying pressure and leveling sanctions they will be able to force Iran to change its position, have rather come to realize that despite all of these impediments, Iran has persisted and today has a more advanced access to peaceful (!) nuclear technology.”
He was letting it be understood that like its enriched uranium stocks, Iran was also amenable to concessions on centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium – again pending negotiations.
In actual fact, both issues will be settled later in the behind-the-scenes exchanges going back and forth between Washington, Moscow and Tehran.
On October 10, the Iranian parliament contradicted as “false and fundamentally inaccurate” Larijani’s remarks about extraneous stocks of enriched uranium and their usefulness as a bargaining chip in nuclear talks.
Our sources were not surprised. Obama, Putin and Khamenei have kept their negotiations and decisions strictly to themselves, communicating through special channels and not sharing the process with any other arms of their own governments – even at senior policy-making level.
Members of the US Congress and Senate, like Russian lawmakers in both houses of parliament, have been kept in the dark on the common ground reached by the three principals. And Khamenei’s office most certainly dictated Larijaji’s remarks verbatim, as the framework for Tehran’s policy-making henceforth.
Iran’s five concessions for the deal
Revealed here by DEBKA Weekly’s sources are the Iranian leader’s five key concessions for an interim agreement with Obama and Putin on a draft blueprint.
1. The surrender of a certain proportion of Iran’s enriched uranium stocks and cooperation in its transfer out of Iran..
2. Iran’s consent to comply with the ceiling determined for uranium enrichment. This is taken to mean that Tehran agrees to refrain from accumulating the amounts needed to build a nuclear weapon.
3. Tehran will grant International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access for the first time to the Parchin military base south of Tehran, where, according to Western and Israeli intelligence, Iran has clandestinely tested nuclear explosives. This access was hitherto denied.
4. Iran will sign the Additional Protocol of the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty-NPT, which provides for snap nuclear watchdog inspections of suspect nuclear sites and more thorough examinations.
5. Tehran undertakes not to build a plutonium separation plant at the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak. This commitment means that Tehran gives up the option of developing plutonium as a nuclear weaponizing alternative to enriched uranium.
The Iranians are also willing to discuss the partial or complete closure of their underground enrichment plant at Fordo near Qom.
The US quid pro quo
The quid pro quo for these concessions has also been agreed: US and European will start lifting sanctions, one by one, in response to every Iranian concession.
In the opening article of DEBKA Weekly 605 of Oct. 4: Who Orchestrates America’s Iran Policy? Some say I’s Sergei Kiryenko, Rosatom Director, we explored the Russian role in the secret US-Iran exchanges.
This week we can report that President Vladimir Putin has joined the process in person, hoping to short-cut the secret channel and have a partial draft proposal ready in time for the Geneva meeting.
Sensing that a breakthrough is ahead on one of the most challenging issues of the day, many outsiders were trying to jump on the bandwagon this week, including Switzerland. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, tried to put his oar in as well, but was quickly squelched.
Obama, Putin and Khamenei are determined to keep their club closed to all outsiders, granting admission to no one but one individual, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, who has acted as their go-between.