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Did the Sanctions Against Iran Finally Win Out?

Russia reportedly makes an offer that would be difficult to refuse

Adam Chandler
October 17, 2013
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif in Geneva(AP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif in Geneva(AP)

As negotiations between the P5+1 Group and Iran wrapped up yesterday in Geneva, the diplomatic planes hadn’t even flown the tarmacs yet before Russia had reportedly arrived at a solution for the impasse on Iran’s nuclear program. Here goes: If the world acknowledges Iran’s right to enrich uranium and lifts the sanctions against it, the international community could then control Iran’s nuclear program.

“The beacon, the main arrangement that we follow is the proposal by [President] Vladimir Putin that the recognition of Iran’s right to [uranium] enrichment as part of its inseparable rights under the Non-proliferation Treaty should be accompanied by the introduction of full comprehensive international control over the Iranian nuclear program,” [Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei] Ryabkov said.

Russia, which has long been an ally of Iran, cribbed the proposal from its Syria strategy, where to ward off a seemingly imminent American strike last month, Russia proposed that Syria hand over its chemical weapons arsenal to the international community and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. For the time being, the strategy has worked. But will that work for Iran? A few initial questions:

• Would Iran agree to this? (Given that Russia proposed it, probably.)

• Would this be enough to allay the fears of those–namely Israel along with a slew of Arab countries–who are threatened by the specter of a nuclear Iran? (Given the demand that Iran not be allowed to enrich uranium on its own soil, probably not.)

• Would this mean that the once-secret fortified nuclear facility at Qom be shut down? (It’d better.)

• Should this be explored as a serious option? (Definitely.)

• Is this another Iranian stalling tactic? (Ask again tomorrow.)

• Does this mean the Rouhani charm offensive failed? (Mayhaps.)

• Have I missed something here? (Probably.)

This development (if it materializes) comes on the heels of this week’s nuclear negotiations, which were widely hailed in diplospeak as “constructive.” With another round of talks set for three weeks from now, if this proposal is what’s ultimately enacted, it would seemingly represent a victory for the P5+1 crew. Russia looks the hero, Iran gets to declare victory on its nuclear rights, and the program comes under international control. Assuming the above questions above are sufficiently answered, one takeaway is that holding firm on the sanctions is what produced this possibility.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.