25 October 2009

Iran Dithering Over Proposals

While Iran is permitting inspections of the recently -revealed nuclear processing site, near Qom, to go forward, it is by no means certain that it will accept the proposed deal to allow France and Russia to finalize fuel processing. The proposal would ship, either in stages or in bulk, all of Iran's nuclear fuel to Russia and France for final reprocessing. The two countries would ensure that fuel was processed only to the extent required for nuclear medicine. Major concerns about the ability of Iran to either hide reprocessing or to simply continue processing unshipped material (in the case of piecemeal shipments) abound. France has warned that Iran does not seem to be bargaining in good faith, and that it will drag the negotiations out until the process is meaningless. This was born out last week by Iran's decision to postpone a decision. Also of concern is Russia's on-again, off-again bargaining with Iran to directly ship uranium to the country. Whether or not Russian can be relied upon as a partner in this process remains to be seen.

President Obama has stated that Iran is 'on notice to comply' with the plant inspections and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This kind of 'bold' rhetoric has yet to produce results in North Korea, Pakistan or really any country the President has put on notice. It's doubtful that Iran will take much notice of the warnings without some real consequences on the table. France openly scoffed at this language during the G-20 summit, and Russia declared it unhelpful. President Sarkozy seems to have backed off some vis/vis President Obama, holding a telephone conversation yesterday with Obama on Iran, but continues to predict that direct actions (either through strengthened sanctions or turning a blind eye to Israeli action) may be necessary.

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