Can Iran Deliver on the Same Deal it Reneged Before?

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iran ayataollah.jpgThis is a guest note by Barbara Slavin, freqent TWN contributor and author of Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation. Slavin has visited Iran seven times.
It is easy to dismiss Iran’s nuclear agreement with Brazil and Turkey as a ploy to stave off a new round of economic sanctions.
The agreement, reached last weekend through the personal mediation of the presidents of Brazil and Turkey, came a day before the U.S. circulated a draft resolution against Iran in the U.N. Security Council. A vote is likely to take weeks, however, meaning that there is time for direct U.S.-Iran talks on new safeguards against Iran building a nuclear weapons capability.
The deal Iran has approved is contingent on the blessing of the United States, Russia, France and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran has promised to send a letter confirming the agreement to the IAEA within seven days.
“If it appears to be something that is a good jumping off point, it would be difficult for the Obama administration to completely stonewall it,” said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution who advises the State Department on long-term policy toward Iran.
The agreement, as reported in the Iranian press, is similar to one the U.S. put forward last fall with several important caveats. Iran has pledged to send out for storage in Turkey 2,640 pounds of slightly enriched uranium. In return, a year from now Iran would receive from the IAEA fuel for a reactor that makes medical isotopes.
The problem, from the U.S. point of view, is that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) has grown in the past six months. So it could send out 2,640 pounds and still have enough in the near future to make a nuclear weapon, according to David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security. Also, Iran has not promised to stop enriching uranium to levels that are dangerously close to weapons grade. And Tehran reserves the right to ask Turkey to return its LEU “in case provisions of this declaration are not respected.” What that means is not defined. U.S.-Iran talks could help clarify this.
It is possible that the deal will collapse because of domestic Iranian opposition, which doomed a tentative agreement last fall. While the U.S. response to the latest offer has understandably been skeptical, Iranians are not uniformly enthusiastic.
The newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami (Islamic Republic), a hard-line publication, noted Tuesday that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had insisted last year that any swap of LEU for reactor fuel should be simultaneous, take place on Iranian soil and involve only an amount of LEU “equal to [Iran’s] its needs” for fuel. “Unfortunately, these three conditions were not met,” the newspaper said. “Contrary to what has been claimed… this agreement is not a victory for Iran but an obvious retreat before the bullying demands of the West. The Islamic Republic of Iran should not accept it.”
Domestic opponents of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on both the left and right fear that he is prepared to sell out Iranian interests to try to shore up his tattered legitimacy.
Ahmadinejad, who enjoys grandstanding abroad, has lost popularity in Iran because of economic mismanagement and government repression in the aftermath of disputed 2009 presidential elections.
The U.S. domestic environment is also tricky just months before mid-term elections. Republicans have accused the Obama administration of “appeasing” Iran by seeking to engage it. The administration’s hard line in response to the Brazil-Turkey-Iran deal seems in part motivated by a desire to show that it is not na

Comments

31 comments on “Can Iran Deliver on the Same Deal it Reneged Before?

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Giving more and more thought about how to hold a funeral wake for the Gulf of Mexico”
    Well, public hangings should be part and parcel of any such event.

    Reply

  2. David says:

    Giving more and more thought about how to hold a funeral wake for the Gulf of Mexico.

    Reply

  3. ... says:

    dan k – the oil spill is major news everywhere except the usa… has to do with maintaining the dumbing (or dumping) down effect will pillaging the resources…. stooges in washington continue to turn a blind eye to the bs corporations continue to make the citizenry swallow…. the story is major and needs to be put into a larger perspective of the dependency of oil while maintaining the hummer vehicle culture that speaks of bigger always being better…
    good luck challenging the auto/oil industry…

    Reply

  4. searmorgh says:

    As they say, you never know until you actually try. To say that the deal does not meet Khamenei’s conditions is bizarre. He met both with Erdogan and Lula and if he did not like the deal, he could have sure stopped it. I am confident that a new round of sanctions on Iran, even if it fails, would have the same effect rejecting the 2003 proposal had; Iran will become convinced that US/Obama is not interested in a change of behavior but a change in regime. And you all know what that would mean; Iran will become more hostile, less cooperative, and a lot more aggressive on all fronts. As a result of sanctions, anybody in Iran supporting a cooperative conciliatory policy is just going to shut up. Sanctions were indeed the best gift anyone could have possibly given to the hardliners. The developments are indeed very sad.

    Reply

  5. Dan Kervick says:

    I agree with POA on the need to revisit the Gulf oil disaster. The spill is not just a domestic US story. My wife has been in Spain for over a month and reports to me that the spill is major news over there as well.
    The spill (and by the way, the word “spill” strikes me more and more as a euphemism) is an historic event of potential global significance. I don’t believe there has ever been a spill of this kind from deep water well. It turns out that there is no procedure for stopping such an eruption of oil from a deep well, and both BP and the US government are scrambling to come up with something. It looks like we know how to drill holes in the deep ocean flow several miles down into the earth’s crust, but we don’t know how to close such holes if we lose control of the escape of oil from these ultra-high pressure chambers. Plans for extending the petroleum age by several decades by tapping into deep water petroleum resources might just have taken a major hit, and this will surely effect the global oil business, and global energy strategy.
    I am also worried about US liability for international claims. What if they can’t stop this thing? What if it ends up causing severe damage to fish stocks and the coastal areas of foreign countries, even beyond the Gulf of Mexico and Carri bean? If it turns out that the US government was negligent in regulating the drilling, will the US taxpayer be on the hook for damages awarded in international cases?
    In addition, it strikes me that the US global “brand” has just taken another major blow. As if they needed any more convincing, the world has just seen another demonstration of the fact that the US model of small government, freewheeling, weakly regulated capitalism is not a US export that people should be buying. Our inability to manage our own house and govern our own society effectively damages US pretensions to lead the rest of the world on matters of global governance.
    There are also disturbing implications from this oil eruption about the very sovereignty of national governments in their dealings with global corporations. Some of the things BP has been doing, and getting away with, are astonishing. They are behaving as though they own the Gulf of Mexico.
    This spill represents a massive failure of the US government to do its job in protecting our environment and resources, and points at an even broader failure of global governance.

    Reply

  6. JohnH says:

    I would love to see a few BP corporate officers frog marched into Guantanamo.
    Even George Bush indicated a few corporate criminals, notably kenney Boy. But Obama has refused to indict anybody…
    Talk about the fix being in!

    Reply

  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I would love to see this blog revisit the unfolding disaster in the gulf. It has become increasingly obvious that the Obama Adsministration, in league with BP, is working hard to minimize and conceal the extent of the disaster.
    Now that “commissions” are being formed, you can rest assured that the fix is in. Due to whistleblower accounts and statements, we already KNOW that criminal malfeasance occurred, and there is ample existing evidence to justify firings and probable arrests of both BP employees AND MMS agents.
    We do not need “commissions” at this point in time, we need firings and arrests, and we need to SHUT DOWN ALL GULF DRILLING until such time as we can examine whether or not the existing operating drilling rigs in the gulf have adhered to ALL regulations, or if they were afforded the same corrupt, illegal, and lax oversight that the criminal MMS agents extended to Deepwater Horizon.

    Reply

  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

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    Reply

  9. samuelburke says:

    Ray McGovern over at antiwar dot com has this
    “Derailing a Deal
    Many Washington insiders were shocked last Oct. 1 when Tehran
    agreed to send 2,640 pounds (then as much as 75 percent of
    Iran

    Reply

  10. Mamoon says:

    the comments for this post are very informative; for a thorugh analysis see
    http://www.raceforiran.com/the-brazil-turkey-deal-new-sanctions-and-what-the-media-are-missing

    Reply

  11. JohnH says:

    Meanwhile, “Obama Signs Law to Increase Monitoring of Global Press Freedom” What a piece of horse shit! No, that doesn’t smell bad enough. Make that pig shit!
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=azv7Uxl5b8ho
    It’s “press freedom” as long as it echoes Washington’s narrative. Otherwise, you’re not supposed to get access to the media.

    Reply

  12. JohnH says:

    Former Financial Times Tehran correspondent Gareth Smyth said that, “At the Financial Times, the Middle East editor often made it clear I should not be writing certain things. For example, in 2005, the editor was convinced that [Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani would win the election, and I, more or less alone of the Western media in Tehran, was analyzing the situation in a different way.” The editor often told Smyth that he was seen as being “pro-conservative” because he spent as much time talking to hard-liners as he did to reformists. “Too often,” he says, “THERE IS A LINE IMPOSED FROM LONDON OR WASHINGTON, and this is why so much Iran reporting has been inaccurate and misleading.”
    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/alumni/Magazine/Spring2010/feature4.html
    Except for Dan Kervick once, you don’t get to file guest comments here unless you’ve been “mainstreamed.” Noam Chomsky need not apply.

    Reply

  13. JohnH says:

    Yes, Washington is not a place that receives input–“having power is not having to listen.”
    Nowhere is that arrogance more apparent than in the foreign policy mob, which routinely expects us to accept with question whatever nonsense they choose to post. If what they say is defensible, then they should be able to defend it.

    Reply

  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    With rare exception, whenever a guest blogger puts up this kind of fluffy flight of fancy, the comment section at TWN is rather unabashed about declaring they smell manure.
    And it is equally rare for the guest blogger to defend whatever it is in their essay that illicits a unanimous “Eewww, that stinks”. Its one of my pet peeves here. I really would like to see Ms. Slavin explain, or defend, her devotion to a script that most of us recognize as being absolute horseshit. Differing opinions are to be expected, but complete flights of fancy by guest bloggers are somewhat dissappointing to see on this blog.
    And how is the pathetic performance of Hillary Clinton managing to escape mention???? Someone wanna tell me what this woman has brought home that is laudable, constructive, or an improvement over what these sacks of shit in the Bush Administration left us?

    Reply

  15. JohnH says:

    Dan, I think your figures are correct. And, yes, Iran has been enriching uranium since last fall. I believe its stockpile has roughly doubled.
    The new deal is now “inadequate” because the US was disingenuous in explaining the initial deal–it explicitly wanted Iran to hand over ALL its enriched uranium, but it never explicitly required Iran to stop enriching any more. Now Washington has moved the goal posts and wants everyone to pretend they didn’t notice.
    Another way to look at Iran’s uranium stockpile is that it is probably less than the amount of “depleted” uranium that the US has scattered across Iraq…

    Reply

  16. Dan Kervick says:

    Could someone clear up something for me about the number of pounds of low-enriched uranium we are talking about. I seem to recall that the deal on the table last fall was that Iran would send out 1,100 kilograms, which is about 2,425 pounds. The current proposal is for Iran to send out 2,640 pounds. Does that mean that in the new proposal that Iran has offered to swap more low-enriched uranium than was asked for last year? Or is my recollection of 1,100 kg faulty?
    I’m asking this, because some of the initial responses suggested that the previous deal was no longer adequate because Iran had enriched more uranium since last year.

    Reply

  17. Anonymous says:

    Three questions for the author:
    1. Has the *IAEA* – not some possibly interested
    party – confirmed that Iran’s current LEU
    stockpile has really increased by any significant
    amounts? Iran doesn’t have ready access to UF6 for
    processing, and had 1,800 kilos of LEU in October
    2009, after at least eight years of continuous
    enrichment. Anti-swap writers now speak of 2,400
    kilos. How could Iran have amassed those 600 extra
    kilos in just over seven months?
    2. What are “levels dangerously close to weapons
    grade”? As far as I know, weapons-grade uranium
    must be enriched to *at least* 90%. Iran has
    announced it will enrich its LEU to 20%, which is
    not even close to weapons-grade – and many experts
    doubt they can reach even the 20% level.
    3. The swap-deal was not intended, as it was
    proposed by the U.S. last year, to address all
    issues, but just as a confidence-building measure
    intended to allow for the negotiation of these
    issues. So why is stopping uranium enrichment,
    which is the core of this dispute, now being put
    forth as a pre-condition for negotiations to
    start. What will be left for negotiation after
    Iran agrees to stop enriching uranium?

    Reply

  18. JohnG says:

    As always, the Leveretts provide insightful observations and analysis concerning our irrational and counter-productive policies towards Iran:
    http://www.raceforiran.com/the-brazil-turkey-deal-new-sanctions-and-what-the-media-are-missing

    Reply

  19. Sweetness says:

    Eric…you may be right…but I didn’t quite get that from the article.
    The WINEP guy pretty clearly wants the deal to fall through. The
    Obama administration? I’m not so sure. I guess “reasonable” is in
    the eye of the beholder…but again, you may be right.

    Reply

  20. erichwwk says:

    I “think” we all interpreted the headline as implying Iran was “the unreasonable party” in the previous deal making not leading to an actual exchange. As Elbaradei tried to explain, the US rejected the deal when Iran explored more reasonable escrow terms. It was the US that tried to game the exchange, and insist on “unreasonable terms”.
    I agree Slavin’s article appears “nuanced”. So let’s make it less so.
    The phrase:
    “Still, experts say the Obama administration should act carefully to make sure that if the deal fails, the onus is on Tehran, not Washington”
    implies to me that the US is generally agreeable to to the deal.
    The statement:
    “I would bend over backwards to be reasonable,” said Patrick Clawson, an Iran analyst at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Chances are that “the Iranians will over-negotiate this and the deal will fall apart.”
    suggest to me that the US should “appear” to agree, only because the odds are the deal will fall through.
    So… which is it? Does the US want a deal or an excuse to bash Iran and cover for sanctions, while “appearing” to negotiate in good faith?

    Reply

  21. Sweetness says:

    I think the phrase would be “reneged on” not reneged + object.
    So the headline writer probably meant to say “rejected.”
    I think Slavin’s article is far more nuanced than commenters give
    her credit for.
    Such certainty in the face of…uncertainty.

    Reply

  22. ... says:

    when someone writes a book called “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation.

    Reply

  23. erichwwk says:

    How wonderful it is to be part of a group of folks where every single commenter understands that Iran “never reneged on the deal”.
    The interesting question is why Barbara Slavin implies that Iran did.
    She writes that it is “similar” without making the effort to be specific on HOW it is different. Perhaps listening to Elbaradei’s most recent discussion with Charlie Rose might refresh her memory. Elbaradei is quite specific in that interview despite some rather strong efforts by Charlie Rose to throw Elbaradei off track.
    That transcript is here:
    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10701#frame_top
    IS it not crystal clear that the “swap” the US originally proposed is not one ANY prudent actor would agree to?

    Reply

  24. ... says:

    since the war in iraq it has been clear to the world that the usa is not an honest broker and neither is it interested in peace, but only war… the thought that obama would redirect the usa’s image and content differently is fast becoming obsolete… anyone who thinks the usa bargains in good faith is out of touch with reality… it is a drag to have such a major power as the usa also out of touch with reality, but this is where we find the world in 2010…
    brazil and turkey are infinitely more trustworthy to be working a deal with iran… everyone knows that including slavin, but some folks have some stuff to pedal which is good for the garden in the springtime, but not much else…

    Reply

  25. hass says:

    Iran did not “reneg” on the deal. It clearly stated that it had accepted the deal “in principle” only and that it would need to receive assurances. The current agreement provides those assurances. The myth that Iran had rejected or reneged on the deal is promoted by the Iran hawks who insist that there can be no accomodation with Iran. Steve Clemons is on the record opposing the deal, so that’s why he’s joining in on this spin.

    Reply

  26. John Waring says:

    There is no military solution to this political problem.
    Now is the time for quiet, behind the scenes, negotiations with Iran. Yes, keep up the sanctions pressure, but negotiate in whatever forum deemed appropriate, through any party deemed appropiate, with the sole caveat being that the person in the room with the Iranians must be able to speak for the Administration. It’s time to demonstrate the seriousness of our intent to reach a political agreement.
    The idea that war with Iran will have any good result is a pipe dream.

    Reply

  27. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Apparently Turkey and Brazil aren’t too thrilled with the ongoing sanctions drive. Brazil has pretty much said “fuck you, Hillary, we won’t even discuss sanctions”. And Erdogan has correctly attacked the credibility of this entire dog and pony show.
    Amazing, isn’t it? Two key allies, being thrown away because of this racist intransigent little shithole country of Israel, that time and time again has proven it will cast OUR interests to the wind in its drive to establish a jewish state. False flag attacks on our military assets, blackmailing and bribing our politicians. Stealing our military secrets and selling them. Ongoing and constant acts of espionage against us. Targeting American citizens protesting ILLEGAL and egregious war crimes and human rights abuses. This is the nation we are willing to sacrifice our morals, our ethics, our credibility, our standing in the world community for?
    Who’s the biggest threat to peace in the world today? Who can most easily start WWIII today? With friends like this…..
    Ask the rest of the world community who they’d trust first. Israel and the United States, or Turkey and Brazil?

    Reply

  28. Dan Kervick says:

    Just a brief observation on the title of this post: Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Iranians did not renege on the previous deal. They never accepted the deal. To renege on a deal is to fail to follow through on the commitments one has made. It is incorrect usage to characterize an unwillingness to make a deal in the first place as “reneging.”

    Reply

  29. JohnH says:

    Can the US agree on the same deal it proposed before? That is the real question. Can the US take ‘yes’ for an answer. It appears not.
    And so, Slavin’s speculation about Iran is inappropriate and premature. Why not instead question the motives and sincerity of the US?
    Obviously, the US wants to have its cake and eat it too–no Iranian enrichment and the ability to held Iran’s electric power hostage to the whims of the P5+1.
    I expect that Iran would suspend enrichment of uranium if it had iron-clad guarantees that it could secure future delivery of needed uranium fuel irrespective of the state of relations with the P5+1. But future delivery is hard to guarantee, particularly when the US has just proven via the TRR affair, where it is holding a commercial uranium deal hostage, that it is perfectly happy to use the supply of uranium as a weapon.
    My guess is that the only way to get Iran to stop enriching uranium is for 1) the US to abandon use of uranium fuel supply as a weapon and 2) allow the Iranians to fully develop their uranium fuel production capability as insurance against the likely possibility of the US reneging on that deal.

    Reply

  30. samuelburke says:

    justin raimondo has this piece over at antiwar dot com
    “I can

    Reply

  31. Dan Kervick says:

    Ms. Slavin,
    Why do we need direct talks between the US and Iran? We now have a new and effective channel with Brazilian and Turkish interlocutors that is proving effective. Shouldn’t we just stay on that track?
    Neither the US nor Iran has shown any stomach so far for “grand bargain” talks. So I’m not sure what direct talks are supposed to accomplish that the more recent mediated approach cannot handle better.
    Also, just how many additional pounds of slightly enriched uranium beyond the original 2,640 are we talking about? Isn’t this the number that the White House conveyed to the Turks and Brazilians? Could we skip ahead of these goalpost moving shenanigans and get some clear number on the table?

    Reply

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