US working to revise Iran deal as part of renewed talks

Obama administration seeking to use leverage from sanctions; US State Department: Proposal needs to reflect ongoing enrichment activity.

Iran Fateh-110 missile launch 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Iran Fateh-110 missile launch 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is working to revise a uranium enrichment deal with Teheran that collapsed last year in order to create a confidence-building step as part of talks it hopes to reconvene next month.
This time the US is seeking to use leverage from the sanctions imposed this summer by the UN, EU, Congress and others in diplomatic talks with Iran, stalled since the proposed enrichment deal fell apart.
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“It’s important to note that the proposal would have to be updated, reflecting ongoing enrichment activity by Iran over the ensuing year,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said. “We still think the concept has a potential value, so we would be interested in continuing to pursue that with Iran if Iran is interested.”
The original Teheran research reactor proposal, negotiated in Vienna last October, would have involved Iran sending most of its enriched uranium abroad through France and Russia so it could be enriched further and returned to Iran for medical use. The arrangement would have given Iran access to the medical capabilities it needed while removing much of the enriched uranium the West fears could be used to make a bomb.
However, Iran backed out of the deal before any enriched uranium was removed.
Now the United States wants to see a larger amount of enriched uranium removed from Iran, since in the past year Teheran has produced much more of it in its centrifuges.
The New York Times reported Thursday that the increased amount of enriched uranium the US and its allies were set to demand that Iran ship abroad would be two-thirds more than in the previous deal, and that the deal would include a demand that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, as well as well as negotiate about the future of its nuclear program.
Iran expert Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said that sanctions had helped push Iran to reevaluate its foreign policy and come to the table. However, he doubted that Teheran would accept an even stricter deal than the one it ultimately rejected last year.
“The sanctions are clearly inflicting serious damage on the Iranian economy and forcing the regime to implement measures to counter the impact of sanctions,” he assessed. “Some of these countermeasures, like massive reductions in subsidies for gasoline and other commodities, could be economically disastrous and further fan the flames of political discontent.
Other Iranian countermeasures may be more effective, like a return to talks.”
But he warned it was “very unlikely” the regime would do anything more than use those talks as a tactic for defusing some of the pressure it currently faces, or accept the new demands.
“I think the Iranian regime genuinely believes [it] can withstand the economic and political pressure,” he said.
Though the Iranians have indicated a readiness to hold another round of talks, they have also shrouded that willingness in harsh rhetoric on Israel’s and America’s nuclear capabilities.
Crowley noted that so far, the Iranians hadn’t responded to the offer extended by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, of a meeting on November 16 and 17.