Monday, May 17, 2010

Predictions about Iran/Turkey/Brazil medical fuel deal

So we have a deal and at least some details will be released this week. The deal should be evaluated on what levers it leaves the US to prevent Iran from building a stockpile of uranium five years from now which is approximately the earliest plausible time that Iran may find itself without exploitable US vulnerabilities in neighboring countries.

The US wish list for a deal would be that a lot of uranium, enough to bring Iran's stock from around 2500 kgs to well under 1000 kgs, leaves Iran up front. Then Iran commits to either slow its production or contribute to some form of fuel bank outside of Iran to keep it LEU stock at that low level. Then the US holds most of the shipment of medical reactor fuel as a guarantee that Iran actually stays under the specified limit for a long period. I've read of delays of up to two years before delivery. These were all probably terms of the October "take it or leave it" deal offered by the US and France.

The Iranian wish list is about the opposite. Iran wants to give up as little uranium as possible and certainly to be free to replenish its LEU stocks. It is not absolutely critical that Iran's stock grow this year, but no deal could be accepted that would even set a precedent that later Iranian leaders are not able to build a stock.

So I guess what I'll be looking for as details are released are: 1) how much LEU leaves Iran and when; 2) is anything done about Iran's replenishment rate; and 3) can the US use the return of fuel as leverage and more broadly does the US get any new leverage over Iran's enrichment program.

I have a substantial amount of trust that if Iran's government accepted a deal it does not hamper Iran's nuclear program and in fact that it does not impact in any long or even medium-term way Iran's nuclear capability or "Japan option". So the important element is 3) does the US get new leverage to pressure Iran to restrain the growth of its nuclear program in the future. I'm pretty sure the answer is no.

We'll see the details as they emerge.

1 comment:

Lysander said...

According to Press TV:

"After several hours of intense negotiations, the trilateral meeting between Iran, Brazil and Turkey ends with Tehran agreeing to ship its domestic low-enriched uranium to Turkey.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Monday that the Tehran government has agreed to a draft proposal whereby Iran will send some 1200 kg of its 3.5 percent enriched uranium over to Turkey in exchange for a total of 120 kg 20 percent, Press TV reported.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will officially receive a letter with regards to the swap deal "within a week".

According to Press TV correspondent, the swap will take place up to a month after the Vienna Group, which consists of representatives from Iran, France, Russia and the US and the IAEA, formally approves."

Only 1200kg and not the 2000kg the US was hinting at. In Turkey rather than France. No mention of Brazil. The onus is now on the US and the west to reject the deal and take the blame or accept it and give defacto recognition to Iranian enrichment. But there is no mention of Brazil, so there are a lot of details we need to see.