Has Iran finally decided to settle the years-long dispute over its nuclear program — or just stalling for a little more time? The regime’s foreign minister told the state-run news agency that Tehran would agree to stop enriching uranium if the West guaranteed a supply of already-enriched uranium for the country’s supposedly peaceful purposes:
Iran is ready to resolve all of its nuclear disputes “quickly and easily” in a second round of talks with world powers planned for next month in Baghdad, the country’s foreign minister said Monday.
Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying that Iran might be more flexible if it could be guaranteed an external supply of enriched uranium — an apparent endorsement of a U.S. compromise proposal.
However, Salehi wants an expression of trust first:
The minister also urged Western countries to move toward lifting sanctions on the Islamic Republic, calling this a “trust-building” measure that could speed up negotiations.
Color me skeptical, but it’s not the West that needs to demonstrate trust in this case. Iran lied for years about this program, kicked out IAEA inspectors, and dispersed its efforts to keep international organizations from determining just how far it had gone. This looks like yet another stall, although it comes closer to agreeing to US terms on the dispute than ever before. That may be a function of how hard the sanctions have bitten the regime.
The offer to stop enriching altogether is new, although it remains to be seen whether they’re serious. In order for the West to accept those terms, Iran would have to allow comprehensive and ongoing access to observers, more so than before 2003, when the IAEA finally caught on to Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Left unstated too was the issue of the uranium already enriched by Iran, and whether they would allow testing to see whether Iran has enriched it to the point of being weapons-grade. Salehi also pledged to continue enrichment for now in his interview with ISNA, saying that it was negotiable.
In fact, color me very skeptical on this supposed offer. It looks like a public-relations stall, perhaps as a way to divide Iraq from the US, as this teeth-gritting statement suggests, emphasis mine:
His statements appear to signal flexibility after Saturday talks in Istanbul with world powers over Iran’s controversial nuclear activities. Both sides hailed the talks as positive and a new round was scheduled in the capital of Iran’s ally, Iraq.
Unfortunately, that’s not inaccurate. It’s good that Saddam Hussein no longer has his iron dictatorship over Iraq and that his dreams of pan-Arab anschluss died with him (the reason we liberated Kuwait and ended up having to finish the job twelve years later), and it’s good that Iraqis have at least some degree of self-determination, but it’s nevertheless galling to see Baghdad being pulled into Tehran’s orbit.