Iran appeared to hold firm to its nuclear ambitions on Sunday as nuclear talks
loom and reports emerge that the US and its European allies could demand that
Iran halt its 20 percent uranium enrichment and close its Fordow nuclear
Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy
Agency, told Iran’s ISNA news agency that the Islamic Republic will not close
its Fordow facility or cease enrichment.
However, Meir Javedanfar, an Iran
expert at the IDC Herzliya, said Iran’s stance ahead of the talks was a
negotiating ploy, and that the Islamic Republic would likely bring its own set
of conditions to the negotiating table, just as the West reportedly
“We are at the very beginning of negotiations, and we need to see
how much leverage each side has,” he added.
Iran’s position could include
a declaration regarding the Islamic Republic’s future rights to enrich uranium
to any level it wishes, he said. A deal struck by Iran with Brazil and Turkey in
May 2010 included such a declaration of Iran’s “right to enrichment.”
turn, the West may negotiate placing Iran’s nuclear facilities under close
inspection, Javedanfar said.
However, Javedanfar noted that time was not
on Iran’s side in the negotiations, because economic sanctions are putting the
regime under pressure, giving the West additional leverage.
“The West can
walk away from any deal,” he said. “Iran is in a bad position.”
and trade sanctions against Iran, designed to squeeze its nuclear program, have
had severe social and economic effects, and have led to rampant inflation and
increased cost of goods.
In December, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar
Salehi told the official Islamic Republic News agency that the country “cannot
pretend the sanctions are not having an effect.”
decision to accept any deal with the West would depend heavily on the position
of its Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei, and on how much pressure he was
under internally, Javedanfar added.
“Iran is scared of the West and sees
any US initiative as a regime change,” he said.
On Friday, The Washington
Post reported that US President Barack Obama asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan to convey to Khamenei that the US would accept an Iranian
civilian nuclear program, if Tehran can prove that is what it is
However, according to Javedanfar, Khamenei sees any improvement
in US relations with Iran as an “existential challenge” to the Iranian
While sanctions could also be an existential challenge, they are
less threatening to Khamenei than improved US-Iranian
Javedanfar added that the West could put additional pressure
on Iran by offering to supply the Islamic Republic with medical isotopes needed
to treat cancer patients. Twenty-percent enriched uranium is the level required
for such medical isotopes.
Iran claims that its nuclear program is for
both medical reasons and civilian nuclear power. On Sunday, the staterun Press
TV quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying during a meeting with former
Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama that Iran is not pursuing anything beyond
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
If Iran’s claims are true then a
Western offer to supply medical isotopes would take away any justification for
Iran to continue to enrich at Fordow, Javedanfar said.
Such a move would
also help destabilize the Iranian regime, because it would improve goodwill
between the Iranian people and the West. Iran would likely reject such an
offer, Javedanfar added.
“But it would delegitimize its cause for
continuing enrichment,” he said.