David Ignatius of the Washington Post has excellent US government and intelligence sources (but can be wrong, see here) so one might suspect a bit of, er, inspiration behind this piece, in the hopes of encouraging Tehran–and note the subtle way the signs are supposedly coming from Iran:
The stage is set for a deal with Iran
The nuclear talks with Iran have just begun, but already the smart money in Tehran is betting on a deal. That piece of intelligence comes from the Tehran stock index; the day after the talks opened, it posted its largest daily rise in months and closed at a record high.
Tehran investors may be guilty of wishful thinking in their eagerness for an agreement that would ease the economic sanctions squeezing their country. My guess is that they probably have it right. So far, Iran is following the script for a gradual, face-saving exit from a nuclear program that even Russia and China have signaled is too dangerous. The Iranians will bargain up to the edge of the cliff, but they don’t seem eager to jump.
The mechanics of an eventual settlement are clear enough after Saturday’s [April 14] first session in Istanbul: Iran would agree to stop enriching uranium to the 20 percent level and to halt work at an underground facility near Qom built for higher enrichment. Iran would export its stockpile of highly enriched uranium for final processing to 20 percent, for use in medical isotopes.
In the language of these talks, the Iranians could describe their actions not as concessions to the West but as “confidence-building” measures, aimed at demonstrating the seriousness of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s public pledge in February not to commit the “grave sin” of building a nuclear weapon. And the West would describe its easing of sanctions not as a climb down but as “reciprocity.”..
The Iranians seem to be preparing their public for a deal that limits enrichment while preserving the right to enrich. In an interview Monday with the Iranian student news agency, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi explained that “making 20 percent fuel is our right,” but that “if they guarantee that they will provide us with the different levels of enriched fuel that we need, then that would be another issue.” Salehi seemed to be reviving a 2009 Turkish plan to export Iran’s low-enriched uranium abroad, and receive back 20 percent fuel for its Tehran research reactor, supposedly to make the isotopes. That earlier deal collapsed because of opposition from Khamenei, who apparently is now ready to bargain…
One can argue that this might in fact be a good time for the Iranians to back off. Sanctions are having real effects and will get worse unless…There is no practical need for Iran actually to move towards a real bomb now, nor to risk a strike by Israel, the US, the US/Israel, or whomever. They have the knowledge and the facilities to move ahead again fairly rapidly in the future if they decide the international situation is more favourable to them, and if they are willing then to risk the consequences of breaking any deal–e.g. amongst other things by limiting the effectiveness of inspectors, indeed maybe throwing them out.
Though one suspects any deal-breaking would be a more slow and ambiguous process, such as the one that has slowly, slowly got us to where we are now. Unless the need for weapons were seen as truly urgent.
Ali Khamenei Cunctator?
Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger
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