Iranian conservatives, reformists unreceptive to U.S. nuclear proposal

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shown in a photo released this month on his official website.
(Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

A U.S. proposal aimed at resolving a central dispute in nuclear talks with Iran is meeting skepticism in the Iranian capital from conservatives and observers of other political stripes.

U.S. negotiators have proposed to have Iran disconnect some of its centrifuges, rather than dismantling them, as part of a plan to assure that Iran can’t race quickly to achieve a nuclear-weapons capability.

The machines produce enriched uranium, which at a high grade can used as nuclear-bomb fuel.

Representatives of the United States and five other world powers are now meeting with Iranian negotiators in New York to try to work out a deal that would limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions on its economy.


The U.S. proposal would allow Iran to claim to its public that it wasn’t dismantling the machines, a step Iranian officials have insisted they will never take.

But in a column carried Sunday by the Fars News Agency, which reflects the views of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, conservative analyst Alireza Karimi described the approach as a “stunt” aimed at “deception of public opinion.”

Iran would be left with only “window-display enrichment,” which wouldn’t be sufficient for the nuclear research and development it seeks, and wouldn’t bring it closer to its goal of having enough uranium enrichment capacity to satisfy its needs for electric power generation, Karimi wrote.

Nader Karimi Juni, a reformist analyst who favors a deal, said in an interview that he, too, saw the proposal as window dressing aimed at easing a public-relations problem.

He said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani intends to do all he can, “in good faith,” to reach a deal during the talks. But any agreement has to meet the requirement of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran be allowed to develop an industrial-scale enrichment capacity in the next few years, he said.

U.S. officials are smart enough to realize that, Juni said.

The U.S. proposal has come at a moment when the two sides have been at an impasse over the issue of Iran’s enrichment capability. They have been looking for solutions that would address each side’s domestic political needs, as well as its technical requirements.

Nuclear experts say that although dismantlement is a surer way to slow a nuclear breakout, decoupling of centrifuges can add days or many months to breakout time, depending on how it is done.


Diplomats haven’t yet made clear what approach they are considering.

But a senior U.S. official, who declined to be identified under ground rules set by the administration, said Saturday that the assembling of piping to tie centrifuges into the groupings called cascades “is one of the most time consuming parts of that laborious process.”

Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Richter from Washington

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