Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Way Out

I'm not sure how much of a shift in rhetoric this is, but both the Iranian Foreign Minister and the Deputy Security of the National Security Council seemed to suggest this weekend that Iran would consider a third-country enrichment plan of the type recently proposed by Russia, as long as the plan secured Iran's "nuclear rights". I take that to mean that as long as any freeze of their uranium enrichment program was voluntary and not imposed, they'd consider foregoing domestic enrichment in favor of a guaranteed third-country source.

The declarations follow closely on the heels of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's surprise visit to Tehran last week, a visit that one Russian analyst interpreted as signalling a possible shift in Russia's stance on the issue following American overtures on missile defense and the CFE treaty:

Most likely the prospect of multiple concessions (on missile defense and CFE) prompted Moscow to try to persuade Teheran to announce a moratorium on all uranium enrichment. But what can Russia offer in exchange? Teheran is unlikely to be moved by the mere readiness of Washington to sit down at the negotiating table or even resume direct bilateral contacts.

The more likely explanation lies elsewhere. Teheran has long wanted to position itself as Russia's "strategic ally". So, there is no reason why Moscow should not make use of partnership relations. It could well act as a guarantor of the peaceful character of the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for the U.S. renunciation of military actions. Russia, of course, has something to offer Iran. And judging from the reception accorded in the Iranian capital to Sergei Lavrov, Teheran finds these proposals interesting.

I've been extremely critical of the Bush administration's handling of the Iranian nuclear stand-off. But this would seem to be a satisfactory resolution of it. The Russians do come out looking like the big winners, but at this point that might be a lesser of many evils.

Posted by Judah in:  Iran   Russia   

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