What the Iran Deal is Missing


The nuclear deal announced Monday between Iran, Brazil and Turkey has certainly gotten many analysts and reporters excited, not least the LA Times, which described the agreement as, possibly, a ‘stunning’ breakthrough.

And it could be.

According to Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, the deal will entail the transfer of 1200 kilograms of Iran's low-enriched uranium (LEU), which has been enriched up to 3.5 percent, to Turkey. Once there, it will be exchanged for nuclear fuel.

But we shouldn’t get too carried away.

The 1200 kilograms that Iran will be sending abroad was part of a previous draft deal that the Obama administration offered to Tehran last October, a draft that was later rejected by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

To make a bomb, somewhere between 1000 to 1200 kilos of LEU is needed, which could then be turned into 25 kilograms of high-enriched uranium (HEU)—sufficient for one bomb.

The reason why Obama wanted Iran to ship over 1200 kilograms of LEU is that back in October the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had 1763 Kg of LEU. By transferring 1200 (68 percent) of its LEU, Tehran would only be left with 563 kilograms. Based on its current capacity to produce 3 kilograms of LEU per day, it would have taken Tehran almost 5 months to have sufficient LEU again to make a bomb. Those five months would have allowed Obama sufficient time to negotiate with Iran (the last thing the US president wanted was to negotiate with Tehran while it was working on a bomb).

That was then. Iran has since increased its stockpile of LEU. According to the IAEA's last report, published on May 18, Iran had 2065 Kilograms of LEU. It’s believed that this figure has now reached 2300 kilograms, meaning that by handing over 1200 Kilograms of its LEU (taking into consideration the LEU produced since February), Iran will be left 1100 Kilos—enough to make a bomb—while talks continue.

The fact that Iran agreed to hand over 1200 kilograms of its LEU is, of course, positive and certainly makes the deal worth looking at. However, what could have sealed the deal and made it impossible to reject is if the Turkish and Brazilian presidents had accompanied it with another important document.

Such a document would contain answers to questions from the IAEA that Iran has not yet produced.

These are crucial questions. So crucial, in fact, that until such time that Iran does answer them, the IAEA will refuse to declare that Iran's nuclear programme is for civilian purposes only.

So, instead of rejecting the deal, Western governments should congratulate the Brazilian and Turkish governments for their achievement, but attach a condition for its acceptance, namely that it is conditional upon Iran answering the IAEA's queries.

Although Brazil and Turkey are major powers, it’s unlikely that they’d go against the United States and the EU. As a consequence, rather than risk their relations with such important trade partners, they could well be motivated to go the extra mile, and pressure Iran to clarify questions regarding its nuclear program.

Howard Wolf
May 24, 2010 at 14:56

Iran has the Obama administration buffaloed. What we have here is the intentionally created misperception of peaceful intent and cooperativeness. Barack Obama has no intention of seriously confronting Iran. Was it Frederick the Great’s observation that diplomacy without force of arms is like a symphony without musical instruments?

Giles R DeMourot
May 23, 2010 at 20:01

Any deal based on a fixed quantity of low enriched uranium represents a deception. The deal initially proposed by IAEA covered 80 percent of Iran’s available stock. The same quantity represent now under 60 percent, and in about 6 months time it will represent only 40 percent. At the same time Iran says it will produce 20 percent enriched uranium, from increasing stocks of low enriched uranium. This is going nowhere: Iran has no intention of renouncing the bomb or at least the capacity to make it. Now going from a crude bomb to a miniaturized one will no doubt take some time, but this is no reason for allowing Iran to pursue this course.

Tony Rivera
May 19, 2010 at 04:04

Interestingly, this article’s main point is valid. Iran should clear up, as any nation processing uranium should, any confusion about its intention. However, the old double standard is clearly evident. Brazil and Turkey should cooperate with the West in order to benefit from economic cooperation. However, trading with Iran appears that they are selling out. Perhaps what the author is really saying is that buying out nations is the purview of the West? It may be the case, that Brazil and Turkey, and Iran and China and India, among others, are tired of the double standard and this deal is part of a new way forward. It is certain that threats are part of diplomacy. But if doing business with the West comes at the expense of a country’s independence and sovereign right to trade and conduct diplomacy as it sees fit, it is not worth the price.

Tagory Cardoso
May 18, 2010 at 23:02

I think Lula has fallen into Iran’s trap. He’s doing these things because it’s an electoral year here in Brazil, to promote his ex-minister Dilma Roussef. I don’t expect good fruits from this deal with Iran and when he arrive in our country, will use it as a government advertising.

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