Surprise! Iran reneges

John Hinderaker notes a dismaying but unsurprising development in our dealings with Iran:

Iran has refined at least 1.4 tons of enriched uranium, enough — if further enriched to weapons grade — to build a nuclear bomb. Of course, Iran claims that the uranium is for peaceful energy purposes, so the US suggested an arrangement whereby Iran would ship their enriched uranium to France. France would then process the uranium into fuel rods for a nuclear reactor and ship them back. The fuel rods would be useless for weapons purposes, neatly dealing with the Iranian nuclear problem for a while.

It seems like a very good plan, if we make one important assumption. It only works if Iran is actually sincere about using its uranium for peaceful energy purposes. If Iran was not sincere, the scheme was destined to get derailed at some point before Iran actually hands over its uranium.

That point is now:

Iran’s negotiators have toughened their stance on the nuclear programme, signalling that Tehran will refuse to go ahead with an agreement to hand over 75 per cent of its enriched uranium. . .

Iran has amassed at least 1.4 tons of low-enriched uranium inside its underground plant in Natanz. If this was further enriched to weapons-grade level – a lengthy process – it would be enough for one nuclear weapon.

But Iran agreed to export 75 per cent of this stockpile to Russia and then France, where it would have been converted into fuel rods for use in a civilian research reactor in Tehran. This would have been a significant step towards containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Before talks, however, Iranian officials signalled they would renege. “Iran wants to directly buy highly-enriched uranium without sending its own low-level uranium out of the country,” reported a state television channel.

Obviously, allowing Iran to buy fuel rods but keep its own stockpile achieves nothing at all. In fact, we’re worse off than before, because Iran is now using the previous arrangement to say that the US has accepted Iran’s uranium enrichment plan. Iran’s official news agency says:

Informed sources close to the talks in Vienna said that the US has in a series of secret meetings informed its European partners of Washington’s decision on acceptance of uranium enrichment in Iran.

I hope this teaches the administration the folly of pursuing a line of diplomacy that depends on the good intentions of our adversary.

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