Iran Expected to Reject Proposal for Nuclear Fuel Swap

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Iran is likely to reject the offer to replace uranium enrichment with nuclear fuel, as it already produces it, according to a report in an Iranian newspaper quoting officials in the country’s nuclear agency.

The offer was the focus of discussions between the years 2009-2010, when Iran, Turkey and Brazil agreed to deposit 1,800 kilograms (out of a 3,000 total) of enriched uranium in Turkey. The United States and several European states rejected the agreement, as it grants Iran owenership over uranium deposited in Turkey, which it can ask for at any moment.

Iran President Mahmoud AhmadinejadCredit: Reuters

On Thursday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the agreement as a “missed opportunity,“ although Turkey continues to seek new agreements in the lead up to a meeting between representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which are set to take place in Istanbul in the beginning of April. Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan is also expected to visit Iran in order to try and convince its leaders to show flexibility over the issue of its nuclear plan, and to present an appropriate solution to the crisis in Syria.

This diplomatic operation is intended to set the stage for an International Atomic Energy Agency governing board meeting set to take place in June. The IAEA and Iran agreed that the latter has until the date of the meeting to answer all of the agency’s questions regarding its nuclear development plan, while the Security Council is there to ensure Iran does not evade and answers all the questions dutifully. During the meeting, the board will discuss whether to move the Iran issue back to the Security Council once more, in order to discuss further sanctions on the country, and the future of a potential diplomatic channel. However, such a move could prove to be futile should Russia and China stand with Iran and oppose another round of sanctions.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khameinei’s praising of Obama’s declaration that there remains a window of opportunity for diplomacy are understood in the West as an important and positive signal. There are those who see Khameinei’s words as a turning point, although a closer reading of his words shows that rather than praising Obama, Khameinei expressed his satisfaction with the fact that the U.S. “renounced the illusion“ of an attack on Iran.

“The United States should recognize a nuclear Iran,“ wrote Majid Hatmi, an Iranian analyst, apparently in agreement with the Iranian regime, which last month held a showing of its ballistic missile abilities, while releasing statements that it will continue with its nuclear program.

Meanwhile the Iraqi newspaper al Zaman quoted Iraqi sources claiming Iranian agents working in the country had ordered Iraqi Shiite organizations to avoid provocatively speaking out against Israel during celebrations of the anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s deposing and other gatherings.

It is not yet clear, whether the „window of opportunity“ Obama mentioned has led the Iranians to believe Israel will not stage an attack, as while diplomatic efforts are taking place, senior officers in the Iranian military have said that Iran was prepared for any scenario and will respond by firing rockets to any attack, all the while it is taking its time in its dealings with the IAEA.

For example, the IAEA inspection of a site in Parchin, where the IAEA suspects nuclear testing had taken place, was postponed by the Iranians, even though the Iranians had agreed in principal to an inspection of that site. The Iranians are demanding the buildings to be inspected be specified in advance, as well as, the methods used. According to Iran the site is a military installation not falling under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Last month IAEA requests to visit the site were twice rejected with the Iranians suggesting the inspectors visit another site in Mariwan, where nuclear research is conducted, in its place.

Iran suspects that IAEA inspectors have been providing information used to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists and is trying to set new rules to insure secrecy in the future.

Iran hasn’t responded to allegations that it had been performing „clean up“ measures to hide evidence that it had conducted nuclear tests having to do with the development of nuclear weapons in Parchin.

And as though the nuclear issue was not taking place at all, the Iranian parliament has summoned the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to answer questions on a range of topics, on which he is being accused of malfeasance, mismanagement, wastefulness and corruption. If the query in fact takes place and is not canalled as it had been in the past, it will take place on Wednesday.

Among the 10 questions Ahmadinejad is scheduled to answer are: Why hasn’t the Iranian economy grown at an eight percent rate as he had promised? Why he fired the former foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki? Why he had failed to implement the reform of the government subsidies? And why he hasn’t created a ministry responsible for sports?

None of the questions has to do with the Iranian nuclear program.

By law the Iranian parliament can impeach Ahmadinejad if his answers aren’t sufficient. The important question at this time is whether the Supreme Leader will allow the questioning session to take place or will he intercede on Ahmadinejad behalf, as he had in the past.