I've been participating in the comments section at raceforiran a lot recently, maybe to the detriment of this blog. The following is adopted from comments I've left there.
The United States has given a letter to the IAEA explaining why it does not accept the agreement Turkey and Brazil negotiated with Iran. We can see that the basic reason is that the deal produced in May does not leave the US with flexibility to keep Iran's uranium without delivering reactor fuel, and therefore does not provide the US with leverage to force Iran to suspend enrichment.
This was clear, reading between the lines, since November. But now it is confirmed. Here is the letter as released by Reuters:
The timeline for the full delivery of the fuel assemblies to Iran is unrealistic. The IAEA’s Project and Supply Agreement called for initial delivery of fuel within about one year to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the TRR, with remaining fuel to be delivered at a later date. The JD calls for all the fuel to be delivered in one year, which we are confident would be impossible to meet.First, the May deal obliged Turkey to return the fuel. The November proposal had no obligation at all, but apparently there is a condition in which the return would be “justified”. More interesting, the return would be justified, not obligatory, if the parties failed to deliver fuel as agreed. But the fuel is to be delivered “at a later date”. It is impossible to fail to deliver fuel by “a later date”.
The JD indicates that, if Iran decided unilaterally that the provisions of the arrangement were not being respected, Turkey would be obliged, upon the request of Iran, to “return swiftly and unconditionally Iran’s LEU to Iran.” Under the previous “escrow” proposal, the return of LEU would be justified if the parties failed to deliver fuel assemblies to Iran as agreed.
Also this US claim happens to just be a lie. It does not take a matter of years to produce 120 kgs of reactor fuel. France told Turkey it could be made in 10 months, which was why Turkey agreed to a one year deadline. But “later date” means the West isn’t even willing to commit to a two year deadline. The point is for the delivery to be held over Iran’s head forever – kind of like a suspension “until confidence is restored”. Here is Erdogan explaining in a separate article.
In our previous contacts, they had said they can give the (highly enriched) uranium to Iran in 10 months... We put a clause of one year, securing an advantage of two extra months.Now back to the the West's letter to the IAEA:
Now they are saying these 120 kilogrammes (of uranium) cannot be made before two years... Mr. Sarkozy says so. It is impossible to understand that.
The JD does not account for Iran’s accumulation of LEU since the IAEA first proposed the TRR deal. Removal of 1,200 kg at present would leave Iran substantial stocks, decreasing the confidence-building value of the original proposal. The JD provides no alternative means of ensuring that the confidence-building element of the arrangement would be maintained.”Iran has not significantly changed its rate of LEU production since September. If fuel had been shipped in December by the November terms, the confidence building element would already not be maintained. This is where the US and France, by the terms of the November proposal, could say unless Iran exports more uranium and/or stops enriching, the necessary confidence building component is not being met, which will indefinitely delay the fuel delivery.
Of course since it is only a delay, but the fuel is still to be delivered “at a later date” the return of the original fuel is not justified. Oh, and the fuel was to be no longer Iranian property by that point:
The JD states that Iran’s LEU would be the “property” of Iran while in Turkey. The IAEA proposal stated the IAEA would maintain “custody” of the LEU throughout the process.The November proposal was designed to leave the US with leverage to use the return of medical fuel to pressure Iran to hold its uranium stock, either through a suspension or further exports at the “confidence building” level of less than one ton. The May deal does not leave the US with that leverage, so the US no longer supports it – exactly for that reason.
For the US, the deal was an opportunity at best to pressure Iran to suspend enrichment and at worst, to just take 1200 kgs of uranium and give very little, if anything, in return. It was clear that this is how the deal worked and Iran reasonably did not agree until explicit guarantees were added that would prevent that. Now that guarantees have been added, the US has no interest in the deal.
This was not a communication problem. The shortcomings were intentional. The US does not now, and never did intend to deliver TRR fuel without an Iranian suspension. The mistake the US made was pretending to Turkey and Brazil that it was interested in a trade if some technical issues (that didn’t even make sense – for example if the fuel is actually delivered it does not make a difference if the fuel had been stored until that point at Natanz, Kish or Turkey) are resolved. Turkey and Brazil were fooled by Obama as much as anyone else and now, accidentally to tell the truth, have exposed his position so that one does not have be be as skeptical of US motives as I am to see clearly that the TRR deal presented by the US was designed to pressure Iran to suspend enrichment and would deliver fuel only as a side effect of that.
Iran went public with its problems with the deal. There were no guarantees that it would get fuel. Obama, Clinton, Samore, Mullen, Gates, unnamed administration officials, people in private sector who are close to the administration all said, repeatedly, that it was a good deal as presented who terms were not subject to negotiation.
Iran did not present a take-it or leave-it offer. The US did. This was openly the US position. The only difference between November and now is that the US has been forced to clearly state the conditions it would have preferred remain secret. The US position seems more reasonable if its conditions are not known.
If the US can say the Iranians have to be paranoid to believe the fuel will not be delivered, it would prefer to do that. Now the US objects to measures honest third parties agreed to provide guarantees, it can only be because the US never did intend to deliver the fuel.