Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Iran's Latest Moves

Julian Borger reports that Iran's Supreme National Security Council is now saying that no deal was cut to ship partially enriched uranium out of the country to make fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor.

Since Borger's report, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced that that "individual countries and groups of countries" have proposed selling the 20% enriched uranium (presumably in the form of fuel rods) to Iran. Israel may even be one of those countries.

Additionally, the Iranian Foreign Minister has announced that Iran has no plan to join the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran has signed an Additional Protocol, which provides for increased surveillance of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA, but has not put it into effect.

Look for John Bolton and associates to make a big deal out of this. The likely explanation is that the deal is being reframed for domestic consumption by Bolton's Iranian equivalents. The mention of the Additional Protocol may be setting it up as a bargaining chip in future negotiations. Borger speculates that the disappearance, possibly the defection, of Iranian scientists may figure in negotiations as well (RealClearWorld, WaPo).

Nuclear fuel is seldom sold outright. Iran will likely still have to supply its partially enriched uranium to get a good deal on the fuel, or else the title to the uranium and the right to reprocess will remain with the supplying country. Yes, Iran could renege on the latter sort of deal. What's more likely is that, again, we're seeing domestic framing that will allow the Iranian leadership to present a deal as their very own. And, just incidentally, that's proudly Iranian uranium that they allowed the other country to prepare for them.

Update: Helena Cobban describes one incident in the ongoing power struggles in Iran. Not surprising that Ahmadinejad would have to sugar-coat any cooperation with the outside world; he could be the next target.

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