Is Iran Finally Ready To Make A Deal?
The United States missed an opportunity to ease concerns about Iran's nuclear program nearly two years ago when it rejected a carefully negotiated deal that would have allowed Western powers to provide Iran uranium for its …
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN I've been following the tense back and forth with Iran very closely. I continue to believe it is the single most dangerous crisis that we confront today. And I'm struck by the pessimism surrounding it.
Is Iran ready to make a deal or is it just playing for time?
If the Tehran stock index is anything to go buy then Iran is likely going to make a face saving deal in the near future.
The index just posted its largest daily rise in months and closed at a record high.
How Would A Deal Work?
According to details that emerged after Saturday’s (April 14, 2012) first session in Istanbul.
Iran would agree to stop enriching uranium to the 20% level.
Would halt work at an underground facility near Qom that was built for higher enrichment.
Would export its stockpile of highly enriched uranium for final processing to 20% for use in medical isotopes.
So Where’s The Face-Saving?
In the language of these talks, the Iranians would be able to describe their actions, not as concessions to the West, but as "confidence-building" measures, aimed at demonstrating the seriousness of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s public pledge in February not to commit the "grave sin" of building a nuclear weapon.
And the West would describe its easing of sanctions not as a climb down, but as "reciprocity".
Reciprocity And A Step-By-Step Approach
The basic framework for the talks was set several weeks ago, in an exchange of letters between the chief negotiators.
Catherine Ashton, who represents the "P5+1" group of permanent U.N. security council members and Germany, proposed a "confidence-building exercise aimed at facilitating a constructive dialogue on the basis of reciprocity and a step-by-step approach".
The Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, responded that.
"Because the West was willing to recognize Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, our talks for cooperation based on step-by-step principles and reciprocity on Iran’s nuclear issue could be commenced".
Jalili’s status as personal representative of the supreme leader is important too.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played his expected role in this choreography, criticizing the negotiators for agreeing to another round of talks on May 23 in Baghdad without getting concessions in return.
"It has got five weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation, any inhibition".
His comments were just scathing enough to keep the Iranians and Americans worried that the Israelis might launch a military attack this summer if no real progress is made in the talks.
Preparing The Public In Iran
The Iranians appear to be preparing their public for a deal that limits enrichment, at the same time as preserving their right to enrich.
In an interview Monday with the Iranian student news agency, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi explained that,
"Making 20% fuel is our right, but if they guarantee that they will provide us with the different levels of enriched fuel that we need, then that would be another issue".
Jalili struck the same upbeat tone in comments printed in the Tehran Times.
"We witnessed progress. The supreme leader’s religious edict renouncing nuclear weapons created an opportunity for concrete steps toward disarmament and non-proliferation. The next talks should be based on confidence-building measures, which would build the confidence of Iranians".
The Turkish Plan
Salehi seemed to be reviving a 2009 Turkish plan to export Iran’s low-enriched uranium abroad, and receive back 20% fuel for its Tehran research reactor, supposedly to make the isotopes.
The deal collapsed because of opposition from Khamenei, who now seems more ready to bargain.
A Workable Deal?
At a minimum, Iran will ask for a delay of the U.S. and European sanctions that are set to take full effect on June 28 and July 1, respectively.
The West will agree, but will keep the the threatened sanctions in place until the Iranians make the required concessions.