And Iran’s take? Top officials from Ahmadinejad on down also reaffirmed their commitment to dialogue with the P5+1. ‘If the other party is determined and committed to law, justice and respect, there is hope that in the next sessions good results would be achieved,’ Ahmadinejad said, speaking to a crowd in Rasht, following the conclusion of the Istanbul talks. Jalili added: ‘A fuel deal could be one of the most important areas for cooperation.’ And Baqeri, his deputy, sounded similar notes of optimism in an interview with Iran’s government-owned Press TV, which headlined its report: ‘Iran ready to talk fuel swap.’
In the end, of course, the TRR fuel swap is merely a confidence-building measure, on the path to a more comprehensive accord over Iran’s NPT right to enrich. For the past two years, the Obama administration has held back from explicitly declaring its support for continued enrichment by Iran, as long as additional safeguards are put in place. In his June 2009, speech on Cairo, Obama said that Iran has the right to civilian nuclear power—and the United States didn’t object to the Bushehr power plant, the fuel for which is provided by Russia under a ten-year accord.
In that speech, Obama didn’t address Iran’s right to enrich, neither saying that Iran had that right or denying it. About a week after Obama’s speech, however, Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Financial Times that Iran indeed does have that right. More recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to the BBC last December, said: ‘They can enrich uranium at some future date once they have demonstrated that they can do so in a responsible manner in accordance with international obligations.’ Not a ringing endorsement, but an open door at least.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Domestic politics, both in Iran and in the United States, make it difficult for both Ahmadinejad and Obama to ink an agreement. But if the talks are to move forward in the coming rounds, it may be necessary for Obama to state explicitly, as Kerry did, that Iran’s rights under the NPT do include a right to spin centrifuges.