Iran continues to consider proposal from international community
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Istanbul, Turkey for an Organization of The Islamic Conference, a group of 57 Muslim countries that promotes religious solidarity in national and international matters.
When addressing the conference Ahmadinejad said, “One of the most important issues of today is definitely nuclear cooperation at the international level, whether in building a power station or reactor or whether it is about Iran’s presence in the global fuel bank,”.
Ahmadinejad went on to say that the idea of completely halting Iran’s nuclear activity was no longer on the table.
In talks with the five plus one in Geneva on October 1, Iran agreed in principle to send approximately 70% of its low-enriched uranium out of the country for further enrichment and conversion into fuel rods for a reactor in Tehran dedicated to producing isotopes for cancer treatment. But Iran has since delayed signing onto the deal which originally had a deadline set by the IAEA of October 23rd. Instead Iran first asked for further talks which were rejected, so now they are simply taking more time to look over the proposed plan.
Although the White House has rejected further talks they have showed patience with the delay in a final decision by Iran with Obama stating in a recent interview that it would be difficult to make a decision in a government that has not yet fully settled since the recent election.
In an interesting development Russia has emerged as a leader in pressuring Iran to accept the proposed deal from the international community.
Russia signed a contract in 2005 to sell S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran but has not made any deliveries made a public announcement as to a reason for the delay, or as it now seems cancelation.
The reason for Russia’s recent actions could be explained by the Obama administration’s decision to scrap plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Since that move by Washington, Russia has had little choice but to play a major role in pressuring Iran to accept the deal.
A further indication that Iran is truly interested in the diplomatic route is that officials from the IAEA have confirmed that Iran has not increased its nuclear capacity since September.
The real question is to what extent is Iran interested in compromising with the international community. The extended delay that will reach three weeks this Friday may be a sign that Iran is currently drafting a counterproposal. Iran likely would like to purchase the fuel to power their medical nuclear reactor without having to give up the majority of their uranium stockpile.
What complicates things further is that just as in all things Iran, Ahmadinejad does not have the final say on whether or not Iran accepts the deal that is currently on the table. That decision ultimately rests with the Ayatollah Khomeini. And after Ahmadinejad has faced much opposition within his own country it is unclear just how representative his recent words are of the Supreme Leader’s current opinions.
Meanwhile in Israel, the government in Tel Aviv does not seem to be putting to much stock in Iran’s apparent willingness to cooperate with the IAEA, and is likely to continue down the path of demanding harsh sanctions on Iran.
Israel Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said in an October interview with the Sunday Times, “If no crippling sanctions are in place by Christmas, Israel will strike Iran. If Israel is left alone, Israel will act alone.”