Russian sources are signalling that a potential deal between the international community and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program could allow Tehran to continue enriching uranium up to 5% purity.
“In the absence of trust between the two sides, we have to concentrate on what causes the most concern,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said today in a phone interview in Moscow. “Among the six powers, enrichment above 5 percent has always been a focus because the Iranian nuclear program is continuing to expand.”
The rumor is consistent with repeated Iranian statements – reiterated this week by the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas – declaring that Iran will not agree to halt its enrichment activities as U.S. lawmakers and roughly half a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions have demanded.
“Our position is completely clear on the enrichment issue; enrichment is the Iranian people’s right and therefore this right is not negotiable and we will never negotiate over enrichment itself,” Araqchi said in an interview with the Iran-based Arabic-language al-Alam news channel on Monday.
Iran is known to possess sufficient enrichment technology to dash across the nuclear finish line starting from 3% enrichment, and it is unlikely that a deal allowing the regime to continue enriching up to 5% will be acceptable to members of Congress or to the U.S.’s Israeli and Arab allies. Writing in the Washington Post this week, Washington Institute Managing Director Michael Singh outlined how any such partial deal – which would exchange sanctions relief for a limit but not a ban on enrichment – would fail in the absence of transparency measures that Tehran seems unwilling to take. Foundation for Defense of Democracies Executive Director Mark Dubowitz has offered an alternative framework for financial relief which would be based on nonsanctions relief, and would provide the Obama administration with a mechanism for partially rewarding Iran for partial concessions without endangering the international sanctions regime. The Dubowitz proposal includes measures for imposing additional, harsh sanctions if Tehran remains intransigent.