“Role for Russia Gives Iran Talks a Possible Boost”
The New York Times, November 4, 2014, p.A1
“Iran has tentatively agreed to ship much of its huge stockpile of uranium to Russia if it reaches a broader nuclear deal with the West, according to officials and diplomats involved in the negotiations, potentially a major breakthrough in talks that have until now been deadlocked. Under the proposed agreement, the Russians would convert the uranium into specialized fuel rods for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran’s only commercial reactor. Once the uranium is converted into fuel rods, it is extremely difficult to use them to make a nuclear weapon. That could go a long way toward alleviating Western concerns about Iran’s stockpile, though the agreement would not cut off every pathway that Tehran could take to obtain a nuclear weapon. … If the United States is wary of Russia’s role, it has little alternative to involving the country. To expand the time that Tehran would need to build an atomic bomb, it is critical to remove from Iran a substantial amount of the 28,000 pounds of uranium that the International Atomic Energy Agency recently estimated it had produced. … For Russia, the incentives for a deal are both financial and political. It would be paid handsomely for enriching Iran’s uranium, continuing the monopoly it has in providing the Iranians with a commercial reactor, and putting it in a good position to build the new nuclear power reactors that Iran has said it intends to construct in the future. And it also places President Vladimir V. Putin at the center of negotiations that may well determine the future of the Middle East, a position he is eager to occupy. … Russia’s calculus is also complex. It stands to gain financially from the deal, but it also has an incentive to see the nuclear standoff between Iran and the rest of the world continue, because an embargo keeps Iranian oil off the market. With oil prices falling, a flood of exports from Iran could further depress prices. … For the United States, the fuel agreement would give negotiators more flexibility. If Iran did ship a significant amount of its fuel out of the country, it would allow the United States and its negotiating partners — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — to agree to a deal in which the Iranians could be allowed a larger number of centrifuges to spin.”
Quickie Analysis: This would be a very good thing if it happens, but are the key players really interested?