Ahmadinejad and Abbasi-Davani at Odds on Enrichment Claims

September 14, 2011

On September 13, President Ahmadinejad stated in an interview with The Washington Post several times that if the United States gave Iran 20 percent low enriched uranium (LEU), Iran would stop making it. He indicated, “If they start to give us that uranium today, we will stop production.” This offer contradicts a recent statement by the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, that Iran “will no longer negotiate a fuel swap and a halt to our production of [nuclear] fuel,” and that, “The United States is not a safe country with which we can negotiate a fuel swap or any other issue.” Despite this difference, the United States would be wise to pursue the president’s offer.

Any agreement that would cap Iran’s production of 20 percent LEU would be worth considering. However, it is unclear whether Ahmadinejad is now able to direct nuclear policy making in Iran. He was reportedly in favor of the 2009 fuel swap proposal to send out Iran’s 20 percent LEU for foreign fabrication into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), but after internal debate, Iran ultimately did not respond favorably to the offer. Given the past year’s political tensions between Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei, it may be that Abbasi-Davani now speaks the most clearly for the Supreme Leader. Still, the United States has nothing to lose by following up on the president’s offer. A deal to successfully cap Iran’s 20 percent LEU production is a measure that would instill confidence about Iran’s intentions and a tangible step toward a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

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