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Has Iran Suddenly Changed Its Tune on Nukes?

No, probably not. But the developments are compelling.

Adam Chandler
February 12, 2013

Buried beneath the news of the pope’s resignation, buried like–one might say–the Fordo nuclear complex, is a recent spate of good news about Iran and its nuclear program.

Last week, Iran finally agreed to long-delayed nuclear talks in Kazakhstan with the P5+1 group. Then, yesterday, there was a report that Iran is converting its enriched uranium, which could be stockpiled for weapons, into reactor fuel.

The conversion of the uranium means some depletion of Iran’s stockpile of uranium that is approaching an enrichment suitable for a nuclear weapon.

Accompanying this report was the statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry that a visit to Iran’s troubling nuclear site at Parchin by the nuclear watchdog agency the IAEA could be in the offing.

The agency in particular wants to visit Parchin, a military site southeast of Tehran, where Iran is suspected of testing components needed to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such activity.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that “the discussion over visiting Parchin could be part of a deal” with IAEA inspectors.

Finally (and most rhetorically), just hours after Iran’s ally North Korea conducted a controversial nuclear test, which was confirmed early this morning, Iran’s foreign ministry called for all the world’s nuclear weapons to be eradicated.

“We need to come to the point where no country has any nuclear weapons and at the same time all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms need to be destroyed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparsat said.

Yet, countries should have the right to “make use of nuclear activities for peaceful purposes,” he added.

Sure, the end there had a little defiant prod, but with these developments in mind, we might be finally witnessing an evolution in Iran’s decision-making about its nuclear program. We might just as easily be witnessing a smokescreen or a ploy to buy more time.

But if there is ever a case for optimism (and optimism doesn’t seem to be breeding complacency here), why not be a little hopeful that the joint efforts by the United States and Israel to make the case against Iran, which has translated into biting international sanctions, may have caused Iran to change its mind.

I’ll update this with bad news tomorrow.

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.