Turkey and Brazil played by Iran

The New York Times ran an interesting editorial today titled “Iran, the Deal and the Council.” After laying out the details of the recent nuclear fuel swap deal negotiated by Iran with Brazil and Turkey, the anonymous author offers some pointed commentary on the actual significance of the deal (if it comes to fruition) [emphasis mine]:

The 11th-hour agreement announced this week with the leaders of Brazil and Turkey was much like one reached with the big powers last fall. Iran would transfer about 2,640 pounds of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey within one month and receive – within one year – fuel rods for use in a medical research reactor.

There are big differences, however. In October, 2,640 pounds represented nearly 80 percent of Iran’s stock of enriched uranium. Now it is only about half of its supply.

The original deal was intended to measurably delay Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon while opening the door to serious negotiations. The current deal leaves Iran with too much fuel, puts no brakes on enrichment at a higher rate, lets Tehran take back the fuel stored in Turkey when it wants and makes no commitment to talks.

Brazil and Turkey – both currently hold seats on the Security Council – are eager to play larger international roles. And they are eager to avoid a conflict with Iran. We respect those desires. But like pretty much everyone else, they got played by Tehran.

While the new fuel-swap deal may seem like a diplomatic breakthrough — especially for the rising stars in Istanbul and Brasilia — the unfortunate reality is that this is just more political gamesmanship. This deal gives Tehran the best of both worlds by allowing it to ship half its stockpile abroad, and thus show the international community it is “cooperating,” while still retaining the other half to enrich domestically. If this deal goes through it may put some folks at ease, but rest assured that the Israelis, the Gulf Arabs, and hopefully, the Obama administration, see what is truly taking place.

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  • Mr T says:

    Great analysis Austin.

  • davidp says:

    It sounded to me like the deal speeds up Iran’s enrichment program. They send half their low enriched uranium to Turkey who enrich it to 20% for them. This supplies the fuel they need for their research reactor. They keep enriching the other half towards 90% for weapons, without having to divert any enrichment effort towards the research reactor.
    I also wonder whether that is really and purely a medical research reactor, or whether it will also produce enough plutonium for them to separate and use it for weapons. That is one of the standard paths to nuclear weapons.


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