Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Iran wants sanctions relief; Israel ain't gettin' no total enrichment ban

On Friday I noted the symmetric spin on the part of Iran and the major powers negotiating over Iran's nuclear program. While Dennis Ross claims that Iran's  "leaders are preparing their domestic audience for concessions," the careful language in which the Times' Mark Landler described U.S. goals suggested that the U.S. and allies had moved off the maximalist "no enrichment" position loudly and repeatedly demanded by the Israelis.

Today, as the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, announces an imminent deal with Iran on an inspection regime, the terms in which Times reporters describe a prospective general agreement on the how Iran's nuclear program may proceed suggests more firmly that a total ban on enrichment is off the table:
At those talks, negotiators will try to agree on the framework of the beginning of a compromise in which Iran would stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity — a level considered a short technical step away from weapons grade. In exchange, world powers would allow the Islamic republic to produce its own fuel at a much lower rate of purity not usable for nuclear weapons.
Perhaps underpinning that gravitational pull, as the Times relays, is the upshot of a Haaretz scoop to the effect that Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak has signaled privately that Israel is prepared to accept a deal in which Iran enriches fuel to 3.5 percent. The Israeli government denies this, but Haaretz claims that Barak has stated as much in writing.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, it looks like Iran is pretty intensely seeking some sanctions relief:
In Iran’s Parliament on Tuesday, the speaker, Ali Larijani, urged the global powers “to change their behavior and stop the ‘shell game’ they have played on Iran,” according to state-controlled Press TV. He also said it would be “improper” for the powers to adopt a cooperative stance during the Baghdad talks while imposing ever tighter sanctions.
 An agreement with Iran over its nuclear program has seemed a pipe dream for so long. Now, it seems fair at least to officially hold one's breath.

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