Tehran promises exit from labyrinth
Tue May 18, 2010 00:30

Tehran promises exit from labyrinth
(source: FT Editorial Comment)
Monday, May 17, 2010

Iran’s offer to deposit enriched uranium in Turkey, brokered by that country and Brazil, may just prove to be a way out of the labyrinth of dead ends that is the nuclear negotiating game with Tehran.

In a joint declaration by the three countries’ foreign ministers, Iran proposes to transfer 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium to Turkish territory within a month, subject to monitoring by itself and the International Atomic Energy Agency. In return it expects to receive 120kg of higher-enriched uranium from global powers, which it needs for medical isotopes, in no more than a year’s time.

This bears more than passing resemblance to a deal supposedly agreed last year, which quickly fell apart. Under those terms, Iran would have sent LEU to Russia in return for medical isotopes from France. But there are three reasons why the new plan has a greater chance of sticking.

First, it overcomes the snags of the earlier deal’s roundabout uranium transfer and guarantees the return of Iran’s LEU unless the nuclear powers make good on their side of the bargain. Second, an offer in writing – with new concessions such as depositing LEU in a single batch and forgoing a simultaneous barter on Iranian soil – suggests that Tehran’s fractious politics are combining with renewed efforts by the west at sanctions on Iran to make its leaders see the need for a deal.

Most important is the role played by Turkey and to a lesser degree Brazil. Both are currently sitting on the UN Security Council, where they have resisted the nonetheless rising pressure for sanctions. It is in these emerging powers’ interest to show they have an alternative. Both are positioning themselves as independent players bridging the mistrust between the west and the Muslim world (in Ankara’s case) and the developing world generally (in Brasília’s).

For Iran it is clearly easier both to trust and to save face by dealing with Turkey – a Muslim country with an outspoken (though moderately) Islamic government. While no one will be surprised if the mercurial mullahs again throw a tantrum and pull back from a seemingly more co-operative stance, the offer must be given serious consideration. If Iran means business, it is the best chance to forestall a military conflict with Israel that would spell disaster for the region and the world.

What is certain is that this development gives Turkey and Brazil a bigger stake in securing a peaceful outcome – and Iran a reason not to make them look like dupes. That is undeniably a positive change.,Authorised=false.html?

Iran nuclear fuel swap: how Turkey is complicating US aims

The Iran nuclear fuel swap was brokered by Turkey and Brazil. Even if it falls through, it indicates that countries like the US can no longer expect quiet compliance from rising powers.
Temp Headline Image
The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkey along with the Foreign Minister and President of Brazil are seen with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (c.) during the 32nd Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G-15 in Tehran, Monday. An Iran nuclear fuel swap was brokered by Turkey and Brazil, Monday.
(Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

By Howard LaFranchi, Staff writer
posted May 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm EDT
Washington —

The deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil with Iran over its growing uranium stockpile will face tough questions, and like an earlier agreement offered by world powers last October, it may ultimately fail.

But even if it does, the Iran nuclear fuel swap signals a new era in international relations – when the UN Security Council’s permanent members can no longer expect quiet compliance from rising middle powers like Turkey and Brazil.

“This is an early indicator of the diffusion of power away from the post-World War II players, of a transition that has already begun to take shape,” says Charles Kupchan, an expert in geopolitics at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

IN PICTURES: Who has nukes?

In a statement Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the US “acknowledge[s] the efforts that have been made by Turkey and Brazil,” but that “the United States and the international community continue to have serious concerns” about Iran’s nuclear program.

Calling the agreement reached “vague” on a number of key issues, the White House said that Iran still has to demonstrate through “deeds” its compliance with international obligations “or face consequences, including sanctions.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to have been caught off guard by Brazil and Turkey’s diplomacy and by the new weight of secondary powers more generally. On Friday she predicted the Brazilian-Turkish mission to Tehran would fail and have no impact on US efforts to slap new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. But by Monday, the US was scrambling to assess the impact of the diplomatic breakthrough on momentum for sanctions.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov went further than the US. After a speech in Washington Monday, he said he would not be surprised, despite the Brazilian-Turkish initiative, if the Security Council resolution that the US has been promoting “passed for a vote in the very near future.”

Mr. Ivanov said he rejected any “link” between the push for a fourth round of sanctions on Iran and the latest diplomatic initiative by two nonpermanent members of the Security Council.

Ivanov said he could envision both paths – sanctions and Monday’s enriched-uranium deal – moving forward. And in a year’s time, the decision will be that “Iran is on the right track, and [a new Security Council] resolution will not be forever.”

But in any case, he insisted, the Iran issue “will still be in the ‘Big Six’ countries’ hands, definitely” – meaning the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany, or the so-called P5+1.

Iran’s willingness to strike a deal that would move just over half of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Turkey suggests the Iranian regime’s lingering mistrust of Western and global power.

“Iran finds it much easier to strike a bargain with two powers that are not perceived as being part of the reigning order [or] doing the bidding of the US and its Western partners,” says Mr. Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad often criticizes the global power structure, enshrined in the UN Security Council, that dates from the UN’s creation after World War II. He finds common ground with countries like Turkey, Brazil, and India that are aspiring to greater regional or even global power, Kupchan says.

Within hours of the announcement of the new uranium deal, Iranian officials were already clouding the picture by stating that uranium enrichment would continue on Iranian soil even if part of the stockpile were transferred to Turkey – a point the White House zeroed in on as “a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”

Such pronouncements dampened prospects of a breakthrough and raised the possibility that the new initiative could end up a blip in the standoff between Iran and the international community.

But “even if a few weeks from now Turkey and Brazil find they have been duped,” Kupchan says, the middle powers’ “quest for a larger place at the diplomatic table will continue.”

IN PICTURES: Who has nukes?


Turkey urges US to consider Iran uranium deal
Monday, May 17, 2010

WASHINGTON—Turkey's ambassador to Washington is urging the United States to carefully consider an agreement by Iran to export much of its low-enriched uranium.

Namik Tan told The Associated Press that Turkey believes that the deal brokered by Turkish officials meets all U.S. demands.

He said: "We have delivered what they were asking for."

He added: "If we fail to get a positive reaction it would be a real frustration."

Tehran's decision to agree to export a large amount of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey after refusing to let it leave the country for more than half a year appears to be an attempt to stave off a new set of looming U.N. sanctions.

Turkey is eager to avoid international sanctions on an important neighbor and trading partner.

Russia welcomes Iran nuclear swap deal
(source: China Daily)
Monday, May 17, 2010

KIEV -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday extended his welcome on an agreement Iran had reached with Turkey and Brazil, under which Iran would store its enriched uranium in Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel.

Medvedev, who is on a two-day visit to Ukraine, also said the international community needs "a short break" after Monday's signing of a declaration in Tehran on the terms for enriching uranium in Iran.

"We will very soon resume our consultations with our partners -- Brazil, Turkey and other colleagues who are dealing with the issue of the Iranian nuclear program," he told a news conference in Kiev.

Meanwhile, Medvedev pointed out that Iran's plans to continue uranium enrichment could continue to cause international worries.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, but the United States and other Western countries believe Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran on Monday signed in Tehran an agreement with Turkey and Brazil on shipping most of its low enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for the 20-percent uranium fuel needed for its Tehran reactor.

The new agreement was reached at a tripartite meeting of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Iran's nuclear program.


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