Talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Istanbul April 14 show that
negotiations aimed at addressing Tehran's nuclear ambitions appear
to be on track. Diplomatic momentum should quell loose talk about
the 'military option.' The top priority now must be to halt Iran's
After a long delay, serious negotiations to resolve concerns
about Iran's nuclear ambitions and its growing capacity to enrich
uranium appear to be back on track. Though no breakthrough was
achieved, the April 14 round of talks with Iran in Istanbul
established a good foundation for progress.
At the close of the talks involving senior officials from the
United States, Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, the
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the two
sides will hold expert-level talks and then will meet again at the
senior political level in Baghdad on May 23. Future political and
technical talks, she said, will be guided by the "principle of a
step-by-step approach and reciprocity."
Now the task is to reach agreement on specific, concrete
proposals that can help prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, beginning with
the most urgent proliferation problems. The top priority must be to
halt Iran's accumulation of 20 percent-enriched uranium - which is
above normal fuel-grade and closer to weapons grade - in exchange
for fuel assemblies for its Tehran Research Reactor, which Iran uses
to produce medical isotopes for cancer treatment.
Further uranium enrichment at these levels has the potential to
significantly shorten the time Tehran would require to build nuclear
weapons if it decided to break out of the nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty. A deal to halt enrichment above normal fuel grade would
provide negotiators with more time and space to address other key
If Iran received fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, its needs
for medical-isotope production would be met for the next decade.
Such an arrangement would also establish a principle that Iran would
not enrich beyond normal-reactor grade of about 4 percent as a first
step toward restricting Iran's nuclear program to peaceful uses.
The principle that Iran would only enrich according to its fuel
needs could serve as a basis for a deal to limit the size and scope
of its enrichment program as a whole.
In the next phase of talks, Washington and its allies must press
Iran to improve cooperation with the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA). Iran must fully implement its safeguards agreement
intended to verify that its program is peaceful. It must finally
answer longstanding questions about suspected nuclear weapons-
related research prior to 2003. …