Tonight it was revealed that:
Iran and the United States have tentatively agreed on a formula that Washington hopes will reduce Tehran’s ability to make nuclear arms by committing it to ship to Russia much of the material needed for such weapons, diplomats say.
The mentioned “material” is enriched uranium, produced by Iran.
This will mean that should there be a final nuclear accord with Iran, majority of its enriched uranium would be shipped to Russia. Consequently there will not be any sufficient amount of enriched uranium at one time in Iran which would enable it to make a nuclear weapon, if and when it decides to do so.
The other reason is that Iran needs to convert its enriched uranium to fuel for its Russian made nuclear reactors.
Why would Iran agree to take such a step?
One reason could be to allay fears that it wants to make nuclear weapons.
But another important reason is because Russian reactors in most cases only take Russian made nuclear fuel. Thats how they are designed. In fact using non Russian fuel for Russian made reactors could:
“trigger a nuclear accident”.
The Russians gave this warning to the Ukrainians after the latter reached a deal to buy US made nuclear fuel for its Soviet era nuclear reactors.
So this is something Iran would have had to do anyway. But the argument could also be made that allaying western fears regarding a bomb is a major part of Iran’s motivation, because if Iran didn’t want to allay such fears, it could have agreed to ship out the enriched uranium in smaller batches to Russia. This would have given Iran the option to have enough enriched uranium on its soil to make a weapon, if and when it decided to do so. In fact this is one of the reasons why the US and Russia rejected the 2010 Turkey – Brazil brokered deal for Iran’s nuclear program.
The news tonight is one small step forward. Lets not get too excited. There have been too many false starts. Its not over until Kerry and Zarif sing.
Israel and the United States do not have much cause for concern about reports of two multi-billion dollar deals being negotiated between Iran and Russia.
Neither deal is likely to increase Iran’s leverage so it could ignore the nuclear negotiations. Nor is it likely that the deals will boost Iran’s leverage at the talks.
In 2014, to foresee Iran’s behavior at the nuclear negotiations, we must look at domestic politics.
My latest article explains:
Iran’s Parliament (The Majles)
According to Reuters, talks between Iran and the P5+1 have hit a snag.
The reason is believed to be the Iranian regime’s unhappiness with the US adding new companies and individuals to its list of sanction evaders.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi sees these additions as “new sanctions”. According to his statement published on Fars news (and reprinted in Reuters):
“We are evaluating the situation and Iran will react accordingly to the new sanctions imposed on 19 companies and individuals. It is against the spirit of the Geneva deal.”
Fact: these are not “new sanctions” as Mr Araqchi states. These companies and individuals were punished as part of existing sanctions. And the US is not breaking the Geneva agreement by continuing with the existing sanctions.
Its very possible that the Iranian side is doing this because the Rouhani administration is coming under increasing pressure at home from those in the Conservative camp who oppose the Geneva deal. With this latest maneuver, the Rouhani administration could be trying to earn some street cred among the hardliners, who are becoming increasingly vociferous.
John Kerry has reason to be thankful. This latest move by Tehran will hurt those in Washington and Jerusalem who accuse the Obama administration of being “desperate”, “naive” and “falling over itself to sign a deal with the Iranians no matter what”.
The reaction by the Iranian team can be used as clear evidence that the US is serious about maintaining existing sanctions, regardless of whether Iran’s leaders like it or not.
According to a recent survey by the Tel Aviv University-Israel Democracy Institute Peace Index, majority of Israelis distrust the latest Iran nuclear deal.
According to the survey’s findings:
Fully 77% of Israelis say the nuclear agreement between Western powers and Iran will not end the Islamic Republic’s drive for nuclear weapons. Just 18% said they thought it would.
Therefore it seems that Netanyahu has the backing of majority of Israeli when it comes to his skepticism of the interim deal between the P5+1 and Iran.
However where the public don’t seem to back him is when it comes to relations with the US government.
At the same time, Israelis overwhelmingly welcome the alliance with the US.
The survey asked bluntly: “Since 1967 the United States has been considered Israel’s most loyal and important ally. Do you think it still is?”
Israelis overwhelmingly said yes, with 71% saying they are “sure” (29%) or “think” (42%) it is. Just 26% said America is no longer Israel’s best ally.
My two cents:
After eight years of Ahmadinejad, known for his holocaust denial and calls for Israel’s elimination, as well as the recent attacks by the supreme leader against Israel, majority of Israelis are still very suspicious of the Iranian regime.
Yes Rouhani has tried to improve Iran’s image, by it will take more than two tweets from him to reverse so many years of damage.
But, if the interim deal is successful and the two sides live up to their commitments (especially the Iranian government), then I believe that the level of trust in Israel regarding a final deal with Iran could increase.
On why I agree with the French position in the latest round of nuclear negotiations with Iran.
To read click here
The first set of nuclear negotiations between the Rouhani administration and the P5+1 are upon us.
And if you ask me, the press and some politicians are getting way over excited about them.
Its a first date people, so lets not get into arguments about what the flower arrangements at the wedding should look like.
Personally, I am not expecting much.
But what I will be looking out for in this first session (in particular) will be the following:
From the Iranian side:
- Willingness to discuss curtailment of enrichment levels
- Willingness to discuss shipping out existing levels of 20% enriched uranium.
When it comes to the latter, the Iranian side has said that this is a “red line”. We have to wait and see. I think this is merely a negotiating position. It could change.
If Iran sticks to its position and insists that instead of shipping out, it will turn its 20% enriched uranium to oxide, then we will have problems. Because the Oxide can be turned back to enriched uranium after a 2- 3 week process.
And from the Western side:
If there is a new sanctions relief program on the table, and in return for which steps from Iran ?
Between the two sides, the onus is on Iran to prove that its serious about reaching a deal. Obama has shown and proven this time and again since 2008.