Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at NAM 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to rein in the country's nuclear progress in order to avoid passing the "red line" put forth by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of elections in the country, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing Israeli, US and European officials.
According to the officials, the move is designed to avert an international crisis ahead of the Iranian presidential election set for June.
Khamenei desires to replace outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad with someone who is more amenable to his positions. While it was originally feared that the Iranian supreme leader would intensify nuclear efforts in order to precipitate a showdown with Israel and the US and thus gain electoral support for his candidate, thus far he has taken the opposite tack, the officials stated.
Iran has kept its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent below 250 kilograms, the amount that would be needed, if further processed to weapon grades fuel, to make one nuclear bomb, according to the report.
The 250 kilogram mark was also noted as the "red line" for a military strike which Iran should not be allowed to pass by Netanyahu in his speech to the UN General Assembly in September.
The International Atomic Energy Agency stated in a report released in December that the Islamic Republic had amassed 232 kilograms of uranium enriched to a 20% fissile concentration, however it was converting 100 kilograms of that amount into plates for its medical research reactor in Tehran.
Iranian representatives and officials of the P5+1 group of world powers were scheduled to meet for nuclear talks in Kazakhstan later this week.
A former senior White House adviser said Monday
that he doesn’t expect a breakthrough in upcoming talks with Tehran and certainly no deal reached before Iranian presidential elections in June.
Gary Samore, until recently the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, predicted that “ups and downs and differences and frustrations are going to continue for the foreseeable future” in world powers’ negotiations with Iran.
At the same time, Samore observed that the Iranians are slowing down aspects of their nuclear program for the time being.
“Even if there isn’t a formal deal, I do think the Iranians are exercising some constraints on their program for political reasons,” said Samore, who was speaking at the Brookings Institution.
He assessed that Khamenei was being careful not to come near the red line of advanced uranium enrichment that Netanyahu laid down at the UN in the fall, since he doesn’t want to trigger more sanctions or a military attack before the elections are held.