- Policy Briefs
On October 7-8, Iran refused once again to answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency about research with possible nuclear weapon applications, including alleged work on the initiation of high explosives and studies on neutron transport calculations. These were two out of the five “practical measures” that Iran had agreed to resolve by August 25 as part of the “Framework for Cooperation” reached with the Agency last year. The lack of progress on these measures has delayed the implementation of the Framework, which requires Iran to cooperate with the Agency “to resolve all present and past issues.” In addition, Iran’s uncooperative stance is certain to complicate talks aimed at restraining Iran’s overall nuclear effort, which are scheduled to resume on October 14-15 in Vienna.
The refusal came only a week after a warning from the U.S. House of Representatives. In a letter signed by 354 of its members, the House cautioned that a full explanation of Iran’s nuclear history would be indispensable to any final accord. The warning is important because Congress will have to cooperate to secure the permanent sanctions relief needed for such an accord.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was reported to have issued a warning of his own on October 12. A twitter feed he is believed to control presented a set of “red lines” that could not be crossed in any final deal. Among them was a requirement that Iran build enough centrifuges to fuel a full-sized power reactor, and a requirement that Iran’s fortified enrichment site at Fordow be entirely preserved. Neither requirement is thought to be acceptable to the United States.
Last week also saw the first official hint that the talks may be extended beyond their announced deadline of November 24. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister was quoted as saying that “everything, including an extension, is possible if we cannot reach an agreement.” Such a further extension would not be a surprise. More talks may be seen by all parties as preferable to the opposite, which could bring more sanctions and more nuclear development.