US President Barack Obama is considering the possibility of allowing
Iran to keep uranium enrichment facilities on its soil, presumably for
peaceful purposes, as part of a deal with Tehran over its disputed
nuclear program, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
The report came as talks between Iran and world powers on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program were set to resume in Geneva on Tuesday morning.
Israel and Saudi Arabia oppose allowing Iran to
enrich uranium on its soil, fearing that it would be used to produce
nuclear weapons.The Wall Street Journal
quoted a senior US official as saying that Washington was willing to
talk to Iran "about what President Obama said in his address at the UN
, and that is that he respects the rights of the Iranian
people to access a peaceful nuclear program." The official stated that
what this entails is exactly the matter that is up for discussion.
security cabinet released a statement prior to the start of talks on
Tuesday, saying that Jerusalem "does not oppose Iran having a peaceful
nuclear energy program. But as has been demonstrated in many countries,
from Canada to Indonesia, peaceful programs do not require uranium
enrichment or plutonium production. Iran's nuclear weapons program
A country that can enrich uranium to about 3.5% will also have the capability to enrich to 90%, the security cabinet said, warning the West against prematurley easing sanctions. "Having fuel cycle capability virtually means that a country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons."
A bipartisan group of US senators wrote to Obama on Monday
saying that if Iran first suspends all uranium enrichment, the US
Senate will then agree to suspend its work on new sanctions against the
The 10 signatories, among the most influential
members on foreign policy in the upper chamber, proposed the “suspension
for suspension” offer just as the P5+1 – the US, Russia, the UK,
France, China and Germany were set to sit down for talks with Iran for
the first time since the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
onus is on the Iranians to fulfill and implement a host of action items
to include enrichment suspension, and in return, the senators are
‘willing to match,’” one congressional aide familiar with the letter
told The Jerusalem Post
. “But enrichment suspension remains paramount and [a] US military threat remains on the table.”
entered negotiations last month with the goal of getting existing
sanctions lifted. But for several months, Congress has worked to close
loopholes in those penalties with new legislation.
“The intent of
sanctions is to force Iran to halt and dismantle its nuclear weapons
program. Once this goal has been accomplished in a real, transparent,
and verifiable way, we will be prepared to remove existing sanctions in a
measured, sequenced manner,” the senators wrote.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that now is the time to strengthen sanctions against Iran
not weaken them. Accordingly, Netanyahu has worked in the last weeks to
sway the international community – including those in the P5+1 talks –
not to accept any half-measures, asking them not to ease sanctions until
Tehran halts its enrichment of uranium and removes the material from
In addition, he said, Iran must dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
At the Knesset on Monday, the prime minister warned that a nuclear Iran was dangerous for Israel, the region and the world.
he noted, once Iran had nuclear weapons “it will direct them first and
foremost at us. The Iranians have openly declared that this is their
intention and therefore Israel cannot allow Iran, which has championed
our destruction, to acquire nuclear weapons.”
Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif has said a possible deal on the nuclear
program with the West might include strict international oversight over
low-level enrichment within Iran’s existing plants. But Iranian
officials have said they will not remove enriched uranium from their
“If the Iranian government takes these steps in a
verifiable and transparent manner, we are willing to match Iran’s
good-faith actions by suspending the implementation of the next round of
sanctions currently under consideration by Congress,” the letter said.
bipartisan group of senators who penned the letter include Robert
Menendez (D-New Jersey), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee; Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina); Charles Schumer (DNew
York); Roy Blunt (RMissouri); and John McCain (R-Arizona).
Iranian actions fail to match the rhetorical reassurances of the last
two weeks, we are prepared to move forward with new sanctions to
increase pressure on the government in Tehran,” the letter reads.
resolution passed by the House of Representatives last August tightens
sanctions against Iran significantly, by disallowing the continuation of
waivers for companies within allied countries buying Iranian oil. The
goal of the bill is to bring Iranian oil exports down to zero.
language is being considered in the Senate, which is likely to address
the bill in committee next month for a vote by the end of the year,
barring any agreement with the Iranians.
“The critical test will
be Iran’s proposal to the P5+1 this week in Geneva,” the letter reads,
calling on Iran to abide by the rules of the International Atomic Energy
Agency, the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty and all resolutions
passed by the UN Security Council regarding its nuclear program.
senators call for a “convincing threat of the use of force” to support
the administration’s “sincere demonstration of openness” to peace talks.
reaffirm that a credible military threat remains on the table and we
underscore the imperative that the current sanctions be maintained
aggressively, and call on you to increase pressure through sanctions
already in place.”
As the White House prepares for talks this
week, a senior administration official says the US wants to achieve a
deal with Iran that will allay the fears of all parties directly
impacted by the country’s expanding nuclear program.
should expect a breakthrough overnight,” a US official said. He added
that Washington was ready to offer Iran rapid relief from economic
sanctions if Tehran moved quickly to address concerns that the ultimate
goal of its nuclear work was to make bombs.
Any potential sanctions relief, the official said, would be “targeted, proportional to what Iran puts on the table.”
sure they will disagree about what is proportionate,” the official
said. “But we are quite clear about what the menu of options are and
what will match what.”
Tovah Lazaroff and Reuters contributed to this report.