Feature

Iran’s nuclear poker game

Who has the better hand in Iranian nuclear-fuel swap talks between the U.S. and Iran?

The Obama administration has set up “a quick and clear test of Iran’s intentions” on nuclear negotiations, said The Washington Post in an editorial. In a tentative deal unveiled Oct. 1, Iran agreed to ship its enriched uranium to Russia and France for reprocessing into relatively harmless fuel for Iran’s nuclear power plants. Talks in Vienna to finalize that deal are going on now, and if Iran follows through, that would push Iranian nukes back a year or two.

Iran is unpredictable, so that’s a pretty big if, said Julian Borger in Britain’s The Guardian. Since the initial agreement, Tehran has started talking of “buying” uranium from France, not sending its own off for reprocessing. And France won’t go along with the deal unless Iran sends it all of the agreed-to uranium. So it looks lke we’re in for another classic Vienna game of wits.

Iran may be playing poker, and with a bad hand, said David Ignatius in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If a report in the trade publication Nucleonics Week is correct, Iran’s low-enriched uranium has “impurities” that make it useless for weapons. That’s a “potential bombshell”—it would mean there’s “more time on the Iranian nuclear clock” than we think, regardless of how the Vienna talks turn out.

It would make sense that an anti-science theocracy "screwed up its rogue acquisition of modern weaponry,” said Christopher Hitchens in Slate. But if that’s the case, why not bomb its nuclear facilities now, instead of waiting for the ruling “sadistic medievalists” to get Iran's nuclear program on the right track? Hitting this “decaying regime” that “tore up every agreement it signed” might also raise the “cost of lawlessness” for other rogue nations.

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