Sao Paulo, Brazil – If I were in Washington, I would run down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to Congress with a big Brazilian flag, as the young Brazilians run down the Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo during the futebol match, shouting, “Gooaal!”
Because with the news that Iran has agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium to Turkey in a nuclear fuel swap deal reached in talks with Brazil and Turkey that could “deflate a US-led push” for new sanctions against Iran, the president of Brazil has scored a goal against the neocons in the West who want to gin up confrontation with Iran toward a future military conflict.
Iran agreed Monday to ship most of its enriched uranium to Turkey in a nuclear fuel swap deal that could ease the international standoff over the country’s disputed nuclear program and deflate a US-led push for tougher sanctions.
The deal was reached in talks with Brazil and Turkey, elevating a new group of mediators for the first time in the dispute over Iran’s nuclear activities. The agreement was nearly identical to a U.N.-drafted plan that Washington and its allies have been pressing Tehran for the past six months to accept in order to deprive Iran – at least temporarily – of enough stocks of enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon.
If the deal is “nearly identical” to the plan that the US has been pressing, then we should all be celebrating, right?
Not the right-wing German government, apparently.
The key question is whether the agreement fulfills the demands that the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency has made of Tehran, German government spokesman Christoph Steegmans said.
Steegmans noted that the point remains whether Iran suspends enrichment of nuclear material at home, raising a possible sticking point since the agreement reaffirmed Tehran’s right to enrichment activities for peaceful purposes.
But the demand that Iran suspend the enrichment of nuclear material was never part of the fuel swap deal, and, indeed, the whole point of the fuel swap deal was to de-escalate tensions around Iran’s growing stockpile of enriched uranium without recourse to the politically unachievable demand that Iran suspend enrichment of uranium. Everyone involved in the diplomacy knows that “suspension of enrichment” crosses a red line for the Iranians, so saying that the deal is no good because it doesn’t require Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium is like saying the deal is no good because it doesn’t require Iranian leaders to eat pork on Iranian TV at noon during Ramadan.
The main difference between the deal Iran has just agreed to and the UN-drafted version, AP reported, is that if Iran does not receive the fuel rods for its medical research reactor within a year, Turkey will be required to “quickly and unconditionally” return the uranium to Iran. Iran had feared that under the initial UN deal, if a swap fell through, its uranium stock could be seized permanently. If the West is operating in good faith, then this difference between the agreements shouldn’t matter.
Iran dropped an earlier demand for the fuel exchange to happen in stages and is now willing to ship abroad its nuclear material in a single batch. It also dropped an insistence that the exchange happen inside Iran as well as a request to receive the fuel rods right away.
“There is no ground left for more sanctions or pressure,” Turkey’s foreign minister said.
That should be true on the merits, but it’s a safe bet that the “antipeace, pro-Israel” lobby in Washington isn’t going to see it that way.
How will the Obama administration see it?
On Friday, Secretary of State Clinton predicted that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s mediation effort would fail.
Now the Obama administration has to choose. Does it really want a deal? Can it take “yes” for an answer?