How to Solve the Enrichment Issue with Iran

On the radar: The key to solving the Iran nuclear puzzle; Iran signals Fordow compromise; Congress wants say on the deal; Russia’s optimism; About that uranium in Iraq; Iran and an international nuclear fuel bank; U.S.-China cooperation; and the Next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

July 11, 2014 | Edited by Lauren Mladenka and Geoff Wilson

Stickiest of points - “Uranium enrichment is the stickiest sticking point in the nuclear negotiations with Iran now underway in Vienna,” writes George Perkovich for The Washington Post. “The United States and its five partners want Iran to scale back the number and output of the centrifuges… [Iran says that it] ultimately needs to scale up to produce replacement fuel for its Bushehr nuclear power reactor. Iranian negotiators maintain that they can’t rely on Russia to continue supplying the fuel…”

--“The key to resolving this impasse is to prove that Iran can rely on Russian-made fuel to operate Bushehr without interruption, which would enable Iranian leaders to discontinue premature and uneconomical industrial-scale enrichment. To this end, Russia and the other negotiating states should offer to send, on a rolling basis and starting as soon as possible, several years’ worth of Bushehr fuel to Iran.”

--It’s unclear if there is time to get a final deal with Iran by July 20. “But if Iran, the United States and the others could agree to pre-stock fuel for Bushehr and focus Iran’s enrichment program on research and development, it would be in everyone’s interest to extend the negotiations on this basis. The alternative — a breakdown in diplomacy and resumption of destabilizing nuclear activity in Iran — could be a tragedy of global dimensions.” Full story here.

Tweet - @peterson_scott: MT @abasinfo: Sources say general drafting in Vienna has finished & both sides finalizing issues one by one starting by issues agreed upon

Potential formula - Negotiators in the Iran nuclear talks have already achieved progress “on several key issues—strengthening International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and oversight at existing and undeclared sites; Iran has agreed to modify its Arak heavy-water reactor to drastically cut its plutonium output; and a general framework has been developed to waive and eventually lift sanctions against Iran,” writes Daryl Kimball in The National Interest. “Nevertheless, the two sides have more work to do to bridge differences on the most difficult issue: limiting Iran's uranium-enrichment capacity.”

--Kimball offers a formula for solving differences on the enrichment issue, including: Allowing for increases in enrichment capacity at late stages of a deal if Iran gives the IAEA enough information on its past research into military dimensions; phasing out Iran’s current centrifuges for a constrained, more efficient program; conditioning enrichment expansion on demonstrable need; and providing nuclear fuel supply guarantees.

--“Concluding an effective, comprehensive agreement will require difficult compromises from both sides. But solutions that prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, lower the risk of yet another major conflict in the region, and still provide Iran with the means to pursue a realistic, peaceful nuclear program are within reach.”

Tweet - @ReutersIran: Iran preparing to start plant needed for interim nuclear deal: sources

Fordow compromise - “Iran said on Wednesday it had offered ways to address foreign concerns over its underground Fordow uranium enrichment plant, hinting at flexibility on a serious obstacle to a nuclear deal with big powers as a self-imposed July 20 deadline nears,” writes Michelle Moghtader in Reuters. “It was not immediately clear whether the Iranian suggestions were far reaching enough to bridge the gap over Fordow, one of a handful blocking progress toward a long-term agreement that would improve stability in a Middle East riven by conflicts.”

--“Some Western experts have suggested that turning Fordow into some kind of research facility could be a possible compromise,” Moghtader says. Full piece here.

Congress wants a role - “More than three-quarters of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter sent to President Barack Obama Wednesday, insisting that lawmakers play a role in any decision to offer Iran long-term sanctions relief in connection with negotiations on Tehran's nuclear program. The letter noted that the U.S. Congress played a central role in enacting sanctions against Iran and insisted Congress be involved in any decision to ease sanctions.”

--“Three hundred and forty-four of the chamber's 435 members, both Republicans and Democrats, signed the letter, which was released Thursday by California Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and New York Representative Eliot Engel, the panel's top Democrat.” Full report from Reuters here.

Almost giddy for the Russians - “Russia said on Thursday talks between world powers and Iran were ‘extremely difficult’ but Moscow still hoped a long-term deal to end the standoff over Tehran's nuclear program could be reached by July 20,” writes Gabriela Baczynska in Reuters. Full report here.

This not that - The Iraqi government notified the IAEA that militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized control of 40kg of uranium compounds. “This has provoked a bit of a hullabaloo on the internet – but I would argue it’s time for everyone to calm down,” writes Matthew Bunn for The National Interest.

--”All of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) that once existed in Iraq – the material that could really be used for a nuclear bomb, which Iraq had as fuel for research reactors provided by Russia and France – was removed after the 1991 war… Iraq’s most dangerous radiological sources that could be used in a so-called “dirty bomb” were largely removed in a cooperative effort after the 2003 war.” It still worrisome, though. “That’s all the more reason to accelerate the effort to ensure that all the world’s potential nuclear bomb material is effectively secured – and to be grateful that past efforts eliminated such material from Iraq long before the Islamic State came on the scene,” writes Bunn. Read the full piece here.

Supply guarantees - Iran is seeking a guaranteed supply of fuel for its civilian nuclear reactors. One long-sought option - an international fuel bank operated by the IAEA - would be one way to provide such guarantees. “Unfortunately, at a time when the fuel bank could be a valuable asset for countries making decisions about their nuclear programs, the bank’s completion is stalled,” writes Sen. Sam Nunn in The New York Times.

--“The fuel bank is not just a good idea; it’s an urgently needed tool to help prevent a growing nuclear threat. We need to move swiftly, resolve the issues and open the bank. The fuel bank may be directly relevant to an Iran agreement. It can certainly play a big role in the future to help prevent a much more dangerous world.” Read the full article here.

Expanding nuclear security - “At the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that increased cooperation regarding the nuclear security of one country is beneficial to all nations,” writes Hui Zhang in The National Interest. “The loss of nuclear material in one country can be a threat to the whole world.’ President Barack Obama has emphasized that the biggest threat to US security is the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon. The three Nuclear Security Summits have focused the top leaders in Beijing and Washington on nuclear security issues and enhanced consensus on the danger of nuclear terrorism.”

--“It is time to extend China-US cooperation on nuclear security to the military sector. Since the threat of nuclear terrorism is a top US priority, Beijing's cooperation on the issue would benefit the Sino-US relationship. Moreover, Beijing's active participation in building a robust global nuclear security system would improve its international image.” Full piece here.

New ambassador - “President Obama on Thursday tapped a diplomat experienced in eastern Europe to be the next U.S. ambassador to Russia,” writed Rachel Higgins in The Hill. “John Francis Tefft, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will fill the high-profile post that has been vacant since late February.” Full story here.


--“Latest Nuke Talks: What Iran, P5+1 Say” in The Iran Primer.

--“Los Alamos to Get New Supercomputer” report by the AP.

--“Five myths about Iran’s nuclear program” by Ariane Tabatabai for The Boston Globe.

--“Detente 101: Cold War Lessons for U.S.-Iranian Diplomacy” by Jonathan Hunt in The National Interest.


--“New Survey of American Attitudes on Nuclear Negotiations With Iran.” Discussion with Steven Kull, Nancy Gallagher, and Suzanne Maloney. July 15 from 10:00 to 11:00 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Choate Room, 1st floor, 1779 Massachusetts Ave., NW. RSVP here.

--“Deal or No Deal: Negotiating to Stop Iran’s Nuclear Program.” Discussion with Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione. July 16 from 5:30 to 7:30 at The Curtis Hotel, 1405 Curtis St., Denver, CO. RSVP here.

--“Ready for an Iran Deal: No Nuke & No War.” Briefing call from the Truman National Security Project; moderated by Dave Solimini. July 17 at 12:30, call-in number and link provided in RSVP confirmation materials. RSVP here.

--“Nuclear Centers of Excellence in Asia: Next Steps.” Discussion with Kazunori Hirao, Laura Holgate, and 11 other speakers. July 18 from 9:00 to 4:00 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 212-A/B Conference Room, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. RSVP by email to Robert Kim at

--“Iran: Diplomacy or War?” Netroots Nation discussion with Ali Gharib, Heather Hurlburt, and Sen. Chris Murphy; moderated by Matt Duss. July 18 from 11:00 to 12:15 at COBO Center, Room 141, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit, MI. RSVP here.

--“Progressive National Security in the 2014 Elections and Beyond.” Netroots Nation discussion with Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione, Mike Darner, and Megan Minnion; moderated by Emily Cadei. July 19 from 1:30 to 2:45 at COBO Center, Room 140 D, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit, MI. RSVP here.