Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when evaluating the deal negotiated by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Iran to ship much of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey. On the one hand, the Obama administration is committed to multilateral diplomacy, and Brazil and Turkey are partners on the U.N. Security Council with, presumably, no more interest in a nuclear-armed Iran than the U.S. and Western Europe; they should be regarded as honest brokers. On the other hand, Iran is a master of the long game, repeatedly tendering offers in tactical moves to stave off economic sanctions while buying time to advance its nuclear technology. And this latest deal clearly throws a wrench into the sanctions efforts — at least for now.
The proposal includes concessions from Tehran, which had been reluctant to ship its uranium abroad. Now, Iran says it would ship 2,600 pounds of reactor-grade uranium to Turkey, a Muslim country, where it would be jointly monitored by Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency for up to a year. In return, Iran would receive higher-enriched nuclear fuel plates to be used in a reactor for medical research purposes. A previous proposal in October for Iran to send its low-enriched uranium to Russia for refinement and then onto France collapsed in part because Iran feared a double-cross and wanted the exchange to be simultaneous.