From right: Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Brazilian President Lula da Silva, and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim (Press TV photo)
As the Obama administration strives for achievements at the NPT review conference currently taking place in New York, Tehran launched a countermove in the nuclear issue vis-à-vis the U.S. and the West.
Tehran, which at the time of this writing is hosting the G-15 conference of developing countries, presented today, May 17, an agreement together with Turkey and Brazil on a uranium exchange deal – after rejecting an identical agreement proposed by the West in late 2009 in the Vienna outline.
According to Tehran, it appears that under this agreement Iran is willing to transfer 1,200 kg of 3.5%-enriched uranium that it has in its possession (out of the stock of 1,600 kg that the West knows about) to Turkey for safekeeping, in order to receive in return 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium that it needs for the Tehran research reactor. Iran expects the International Atomic Energy Agency, as the body in charge of implementing the NPT, to ensure that Russia enriches the uranium to 20%, and that France turns it into nuclear fuel that will be transferred to Iran, as proposed previously by the Vienna Group (the 5+1). Section 7 of the new agreement ensures Iran's right to back out of the agreement and not to be bound by it if the Vienna Group does not accept it.
Immediately with the signing of the agreement, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the 5+1 to return to the negotiating table. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast announced that this agreement did not prevent ongoing nuclear enrichment to 20% in Iran, and that this activity would continue as usual.
It was also reported that the details of the agreement would be provided to the IAEA within a week, and that Tehran, together with the agreement's two co-sponsors, Turkey and Brazil, were expecting it to be implemented within a month. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that if Ankara saw that Tehran was not receiving the 20%-enriched uranium, it would return to Iran its entire stock of 1,200 kg of uranium.
The Agreement in the Iranian Perspective
This agreement, which is in effect an Iranian ultimatum to the West and to the IAEA, constitutes a significant Iranian achievement, on two levels:
1. Instituting a new world order, led by Iran. The move and the agreement are the practical implementation of statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regarding the establishment of a new world order, and regarding the need for Tehran to participate in running the world, and even to present a political, cultural, and moral alternative to what it calls the failure of the forces of the old order – the U.S. and the West.
This move attests that Iran has managed to cast out the West, and particularly the U.S., in its drawing up of an agreement on a political and global issue relying on rising forces in the developing world – Brazil, whose nuclear plan has military potential, and Turkey, a regional Islamic force – while the agreement presented in Tehran is the same outline as that proposed to it by the West in Vienna.
The recruitment of Brazil, a major emerging world power and a U.N. Security Council member, has moved the Iranian initiative beyond the Middle East and beyond the Iranian nuclear sphere, making it the first step in the building of a political transregional global front that Iran presents as an alternative to the West's hegemony.
2. The agreement will undermine U.S. and Western efforts for sanctions on Iran: Now that Iran has expressed a practical willingness to compromise on the nuclear issue in the spirit of the West's Vienna outline, Iran considers that the justification for sanctions will completely disappear, and the West itself will now appear rejectionist, and unwilling to share nuclear technology with the third world.
*A. Savyon is Director of the Iranian Media Project.