Iran Fuel Deal Puts U.S. in Check in Ongoing Nuclear Chess Match

Iran Fuel Deal Puts U.S. in Check in Ongoing Nuclear Chess Match
# 17 May 2010 19:35 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Iran backed the Obama administration into check in its ongoing nuclear chess match by announcing its own nuclear fuel swap deal after a Western-backed plan fell apart last fall, APA reports quoting “Fox News”.
Iran backed the Obama administration into check in its ongoing nuclear chess match by announcing its own fuel swap deal after a Western-backed plan fell apart last fall.
The country, trying to avoid sanctions after it rejected a deal with the U.S., Russia, France and the International Atomic Energy Agency in October, steered around the United States in brokering a swap with Turkey and Brazil.
In a sense, Iran left the Obama administration an out by declaring it would continue producing 20 percent enrichment uranium even as it proposes shipping nuclear material to Turkey. To become official, the deal still has to be agreed to by the same group of nations that pursued the deal last fall -- and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a written statement that while the fuel swap would be a "positive step," any move to continue enrichment internally would be a "direct violation" of Security Council resolutions.
"The proposal announced in Tehran must now be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the IAEA before it can be considered by the international community," Gibbs said. "Given Iran’s repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns."
But regardless of how far this deal progresses, the announcement makes the administration’s job much more difficult should it continue to pursue international sanctions -- something Gibbs did not take off the table.
"If this continues, it cuts the knee caps off the administration’s sanctions effort," said John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the Bush administration. "I think it’s a jujitsu move by the Iranians that undercuts the Obama policy."
The administration for months has been in a diplomatic campaign at the United Nations to build support for tough sanctions against Iran. U.S. officials upped their condemnation of the country earlier this month after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a U.N. speech in New York City to accuse the United States of "acts of terror."
Under the terms of the latest proposal, Iran would ship about 2,600 pounds of enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for fuel rods. Those rods would be enriched to a level strong enough for a research reactor but not a warhead.
But Bolton said the apparent gesture merely gives powerful countries like Russia and China -- two of the five permanent Security Council members -- a ready excuse to back away from sanctions. Plus Brazil and Turkey are non-permanent members of the Security Council and unlikely to punish Iran after winning the country’s cooperation in a deal they brokered.
"At a minimum this slows everything in the Security Council down," Bolton told FoxNews.com. "They’re just playing out the string here."
The Obama administration, fully aware of the talks with Turkey and Brazil, signaled last week that it would continue to press for sanctions for defying past U.N. Security Council demands that Tehran cease its uranium enrichment.
"Iran’s senior officials continue to say they will not talk about their nuclear program with us," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday. "So we are working closely with our U.K. and other partners on a new Security Council resolution affirming that there are serious consequences should Iran continue to flout its international obligations."
The key difference between the October deal and this one is that Iran has enriched a lot more uranium since then. The 2,600-pound amount was thought to represent two-thirds of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile last fall. Now it’s roughly half, so the deal may not be as enticing to the United States and other countries.
Plus Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that Iran reserves the right to call on Turkey to return the uranium "swiftly and unconditionally" to Iran if provisions of the agreement are not followed.
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