On Monday, May 24, 2010, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran delivered a letter to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) outlining Iran's commitments to export 1200 kg of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) to Turkey in exchange for fuel assemblies to power the Tehran Research Reactor.
This marked a significant concession from Iran's previous position, which demanded the exchange take place in small batches, inside Iran's borders, and simultaneous to the delivery of reactor fuel.
The political paralysis inside Iran that scuttled the fuel exchange proposal when it was first offered in October seems now to have subsided.
The proposal currently being considered has the backing of Iran's Supreme Leader as well as centrists, reformists, and leaders of the Green Movement in Iran, making it more likely that Iran will abide by the terms of its commitments.
Left unresolved in the current proposal is the troubling matter of Iran's continued enrichment of uranium up to levels approaching 20%.
Additionally, even after a successful fuel exchange, the need for Iran to fully satisfy the IAEA and accept a more rigorous inspections regime will remain, as will concerns about the size of its LEU stockpile.
Notwithstanding these issues, Iran's agreement to export a large portion of its LEU outside of its borders for up to a year is worthy of consideration.
If enacted, this proposal would begin the process of addressing a major -- but not the only -- aspect of the strained relationship between Iran and the international community, and would represent a first step in halting Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapons capability. We urge the so-called Vienna Group (Russia, France, the United States, and the IAEA) to seriously pursue this proposal as an opening for further diplomatic engagement with Iran on outstanding issues of concern.
The permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) should take advantage of this opportunity as the first step in a broader dialogue that could include further confidence building measures, such as halting enrichment of uranium above 5%, as well as resolving regional security issues, protecting human rights in Iran, and other issues of mutual interest.
Amb. Thomas Pickering
Dr. David Kay
Gen. Robert Gard
Dr. Jeffrey Lewis
Dr. Jim Walsh
Dr. Farideh Farhi
Dr. Juan Cole
Dr. Trita Parsi