The Obama administration and the European Union are expected to demand that Tehran closes its Fordu enrichment plant near Qom when a new round of talks gets under way on Friday. According to President Barack Obama, this will be Iran’s “last chance” of reaching a diplomatic solution with the West over its potentially deadly nuclear program.
Iran has so far maintained that its nuclear activities were for peaceful uses, such as the generation of electricity and medical treatment. In addition, a statement published on Friday on the Iranian Parliament website icana.ir by a prominent legislator, Gholamreza Mesbahi Moghadam, said that the Islamic republic had “the scientific and technological capability” to manufacture nuclear weapons, as “there is a possibility for Iran to easily achieve more than 90 percent enrichment”, which would be necessary to produce a nuclear weapon. However, he added that his country would “never choose this path”.
The West is still unsure whether Tehran has formally decided to produce a nuclear weapon. The United Kingdom and Israel are firmly convinced that Iran is determined to pursue such a quest. In contrast, the Obama administration believes their search for nuclear weapons was permanently shelved in 2003. U.S. experts also believe that they will be able to spot if and when Tehran resumes its development of nuclear arms in time to launch military attacks in order to annihilate, or at least disrupt, such ambitions. Others, such as former defense secretary Robert Gates, are not so sure.
Iran is unlikely to agree to shut and dismantle its Fordo site. Indeed, Tehran firmly believes that it is within its rights to develop nuclear power for civilian purposes. Although those countries taking part in the talks, namely the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia, would be willing to allow the Islamic republic to develop a civilian nuclear program, they still insist Tehran needs to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to all its nuclear sites in an attempt to restore its credibility. Iran has not only refused to allow access to such sites but has also denied inspectors the chance to meet its nuclear scientists.
Political experts believe Tehran could view the demands as too harsh. “We have no idea how the Iranians will react,” one senior Obama administration official said. “This may be the most complex negotiation I’ve ever seen the president enter. “It’s got the Democrats and Republicans looking to score points, the Russians and the Chinese trying to water down the sanctions, the French pushing for harsher actions and the Israelis threatening to take the program out,” he added.
President Obama is determined to postpone any military intervention until after the Nov. 6 presidential elections. However, Israel is widely expected to launch pre-emptive strikes between now and the end of the year, especially if the latest round of talks prove unsatisfactory.