Robert Kagan wondered this morning if The One will ever be prepared to play hardball with Iran or if the “plan” is, in fact, eternal negotiation while they perfect their bombmaking technique.
The proposal would have depleted Iran’s stockpile of nuclear fuel below the threshold necessary for making a single nuclear bomb, possibly creating diplomatic breathing room for a broader agreement between Tehran and those worried about its atomic research program.
But according to the diplomat, Iran wants to send its uranium abroad in smaller batches over an undetermined stretch of time rather than the lump transfer by year’s end outlined under the proposal offered by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
Such a change would allow Iran to quickly replenish its stock.
Further disappointing the West, Iran did not submit a formal written response as expected, the diplomat said. Instead, Iran’s envoy to the atomic energy agency, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, described the offer to ElBaradei.
The whole point of the deal, which The One had called a “constructive beginning,” was to get as much of Iran’s uranium out of its hands as possible. That way, even if they continued to enrich uranium at home, they wouldn’t have enough on hand to build a bomb. So much for that. More from the NYT:
A senior European official characterized the Iranian response as “basically a refusal.” The Iranians, he said, want to keep all their lightly enriched uranium in the country until the I.A.E.A. provides the fuel assemblies of fuel for the reactor in Tehran, produced and fabricated from foreign uranium.
Only then do the Iranians say that they would be willing to export their own lightly enriched uranium. “So it’s all virtual,” the official said.
“The key issue is that Iran does not agree to export its lightly enriched uranium,” he said. “That’s not a minor detail. That’s the whole point of the deal.”…
American officials are concerned that the Iranians are planning to run out the clock and continue processing uranium so that they can either build a weapon or attain “breakout capacity,” the ability to build one within a few months. Some diplomats involved in the negotiations are also concerned that Iran may have more nuclear fuel in its stockpile than it has acknowledged, and may indeed already possess breakout capacity.
This is the punchline to the stories this morning about Ahmadinejad trumpeting “cooperation” with the west in his latest speech. “Cooperation” is simply a euphemism for further negotiation, which accomplishes Iran’s goal of buying time. Dinnerjacket knew that news was about to break that the west’s offer had been rejected and this was his way of sounding conciliatory so that they’ll hold off on sanctions and keep talking. And you know what? They probably will. In fact, the biggest absurdity here is that this deal was likely to achieve next to nothing even if Iran had agreed to it. Danger Room estimated last week that, given current Iranian capabilities, had they shipped the bulk of their uranium to France or Russia they probably could have replenished their supply in as little as three or four months. The fact that they turned Obama down anyway only goes to show how resolute they are about not making concessions to the west, even if those concessions are meaningless in practice. Exit question: Sanctions now?