Behind Turkey's Nuclear Deal With Iran

Could the Iranian nuclear threat finally be curbed?

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Seven months after Iran satisfied international concerns by agreeing to ship its uranium to Russia for enriching, but then reneged on the deal, Iran has agreed to ship its uranium to Turkey for enriching. If it succeeds, this Brazil-brokered deal would allow Iran to enrich uranium for nuclear power but would restrict its ability to enrich uranium for nuclear weaponry. That would be good news for the international community wary of an Iranian nuclear program, but there are complications.

  • The Details  Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating has them. "Under the new deal, negotiated at a three-way meeting including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iran would ship 2,640 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Turkey for storage. In exchange, after one year Iran would be eligible to receive 265 pounds of material enriched in France and Russia. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said the country would continue to enrich uranium on its own, despite the new deal."
  • The Turkey-Iran Relationship  The New Republic's Michael Crowley's explores the country's ties. "Peacefully stopping an Iranian bomb without Turkey’s help won’t be easy: Turkey holds a seat on the U.N. Security Council until December and may conduct as much as $20 billion in trade per year with its Persian neighbor. Yet Turkey argues that sanctions will have little impact on Iran while causing collateral damage to its own economy. After spending a few days in the country, one also gets the feeling that the Turks don’t mind forcing the United States to kowtow to them, rather than the other way around."
  • Could Hurt Sanctions  Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating adds, "Iran's apparent cooperation with the new agreement could make it less likely that Russia and China will support tougher sanctions against Iran in the U.N. security council and puts President Barack Obama in the awkward position of potentially rejecting a deal, nearly identical to one he negotiated months earlier."
  • Victory for Turkey  Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch tweets, "I heard a lot about this Iran nuclear fuel swap deal when I was in Turkey -- they at least think it's for real. Iran fuel-swap deal seems like big win for Turks (and to lesser extent Brazil) -- will U.S. go for it? I say win for Turks bc I heard that Turkish FM Davutoglu spent nearly 20 hours in direct, private talks w/Khamenei to get nuke deal."
  • Progress, but Not a Solution  Middle East blogger Gregg Carlstrom writes, "the sanctions talk is unlikely to stop altogether: A nuclear fuel swap was never meant to be the endpoint of negotiations; the 'P5+1 countries' have always described it as a confidence-building measure, a concession to pave the way for further talks on Iran's nuclear program. It's hard to see the U.S. government abandoning its sanctions threats at this point."
  • Too Late?  Politico's Laura Rozen says the 7-month delay matters. "One potential problem is that back in October, removing 1200 kg of Iran's low enriched uranium from its then-stockpile of 1800 kg of LEU would have given a few months for negotiations to proceed without the pressure of Iran having an immediate breakout capacity. Nine months later, Iran has accrued a bigger LEU stockpile now estimated at 2300 kg; removing 1200 kg therefore leaves Iran with 1100 kg, just enough for a breakout capacity."
  • Why Turkey Is in the Middle  Foreign Policy's Stephen Walt writes, "Turkey is clearly trying to take advantage of its geographic position and its political history to position itself as an omnipresent mediator between various conflict regional actors. This idea led to earlier efforts to mediate between Israel and Syria, as well as the more recent initiatives toward Iran. Trying to place itself at the center of a web of different regional actors and presenting one's self as the party able to speak to all of them magnifies Turkey's importance and can enhance the government's popularity at home, but sustaining that role over the longer-term will depend on whether they can actually achieve results."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.