Iran announced today that it had reached an agreement with Turkey and Brazil to exchange some of its stockpile of low enriched uranium for more highly enriched uranium that can be used to fuel its research reactor in Tehran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the controversial deal in a three way press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Tehran. Under the proposed deal, Iran would send 1200 kilograms (2,646 pounds) of low enriched uranium to Turkey within a month in return for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium that would be delivered within a year, ostensibly to fuel a medical research reactor.
This last-minute deal does not satisfy the longstanding demands of the U.N. Security Council for Iran to halt its uranium enrichment activities, but would help Tehran by throwing a monkey wrench into U.S. and European diplomatic efforts to impose another round of U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran. Tehran’s latest ploy is entirely consistent with its past strategy for minimizing the international reaction to its nuclear defiance: “cheat, retreat, and delay.” By trumpeting a cosmetic deal that does not address the central problem of Iran’s continued uranium enrichment, Tehran hopes to block another round of sanctions by strengthening the cynical argument, made by Russia and China, that imposing sanctions now will obstruct diplomatic “progress.”
Before traveling to Iran, Brazilian President da Silva said that the problem was that “People aren’t talking. I’m going there to talk.” But the real problem is not lack of talk. Iran has been trying to talk its way out of another round of sanctions for several years now. The problem is a lack of action – Iran has failed to comply with repeated U.N. Security Council resolutions that require it to halt uranium enrichment efforts and refute charges that it is using its civilian nuclear program as a smokescreen to build a nuclear weapon.
While it lauds the deal as a “breakthrough,” Iran’s defiant regime insists that it will continue to enrich uranium to the 20 percent level, despite the fact that it does not have the capabilities to transform that uranium into fuel rods for its own reactor.
This is not an acceptable outcome. Under these circumstances, the arrangement would only deflate the perceived urgency of imposing sanctions on Iran while allowing Tehran to advance its nuclear weapons program with impunity. As a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry warned: “Let us not deceive ourselves, a solution to the (fuel) question, if it happens, would do nothing to settle the problem posed by the Iranian nuclear program.” The Obama Administration must immediately reject the proposed deal and denounce it as yet another Iranian ploy to stall efforts to impose further sanctions, without addressing the core problem of Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons.