Although an unnamed U.S. administration official was quoted by Reuters saying “no one should expect a breakthrough overnight,” there are reasons to hope that the Iran’s talks with the P5+1 — the five permanent UN Security Council members, the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain, plus Germany — on Oct. 15-16 could lead to a resolution of a West-created problem over Iran’s nuclear program. Perhaps because of such a possibility, the war-mongering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ranted in the Knesset today, telling the six world powers that “it would be an historic mistake to relax the pressure on Iran now, a moment before the sanctions achieve their goal.” He added any such move would hand a victory to the hard-line Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Notwithstanding Netanyahu’s ranting, Tehran seems to be optimistic as of now. The U.K. daily Guardian today, citing Iranian officials, said Tehran would be prepared to limit its uranium enrichment program to two facilities, possibility both at Natanz, suggesting a readiness to suspend enrichment at a sensitive underground site at Fordow. Iran is also prepared to suspend production of 20%-enriched uranium — another major concern for the international community, as it is relatively straightforward to convert it into 90% weapons grade material. Iran is also prepared to negotiate on the number of centrifuges it uses to make 3.5% enriched uranium, suitable for fuel for nuclear power stations, and on how much each centrifuge makes. Iranian officials have pointed out to the Guardian that, although new model centrifuges, called IR-2M, have been installed, they are not yet being fed with uranium gas for enrichment, and they pointed to that as an example of how the enrichment program could be calibrated by international agreement.
In addition, the Iranians have suggested that work on a heavy-water reactor at Arak, which would produce plutonium when commissioned, had been delayed since President Hassan Rouhani’s election, and could be put off further if an interim deal was reached.
However, Tehran made clear that it will not agree to surrender its existing stockpile of the 20% medium-enriched uranium, currently about 190 kg, but compromises are possible that would make it less of a proliferation concern. It could be kept under international monitoring in a remote corner of the country, or it could be turned into reactor fuel, a form which is harder to enrich further.
How Tehran will present these proposals at the talks and what would be the P5+1’s reaction would be is difficult to gauge. Nonetheless, Reuters pointed out that Washington is ready to offer Iran rapid relief from economic sanctions if Iran moves quickly to address concerns of its nuclear work, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.