People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 22

May 30, 2010



Iran's Uranium Swap Deal and US(N) Sanctions


R Arun Kumar


IN what was termed as a 'diplomatic coup', Brazil and Turkey concluded an agreement with Iran under which Iran agreed to send 1.2 tons of its low-enriched (3.5 per cent) uranium to get 120 kg of enriched (20 per cent) uranium fuel. The swap will be carried out throughout the year on Turkey's territory. This deal reached at the initiative of Brazil and Turkey was in fact slap on the face of the United States, which was always against the diplomatic route to deal with Iran and was arguing for imposing sanctions. The US had moved a draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council for imposing sanctions on Iran and this is at present under discussion from April 19, 2010. The US, of course, was not satisfied with even the present deal and had declared that it would go ahead with its resolution in the UNSC for imposing sanctions on Iran.


Except for the US, the deal was welcomed across the world by many people. The UN Chief had gone on record stating that “a new Iranian uranium swap deal should raise confidence levels and could lead to a diplomatic solution to the controversial Iranian nuclear problem”. Ban Ki-moon continued, “The agreement could be a positive step in building confidence about Iran's nuclear programs if followed by broader engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community”. He expressed hope that the “controversial problem” would be solved “if the Iranian offer is approved by the IAEA and other involved parties such as Russia, France and the United States, who together proposed the original fuel swap deal six months ago”.


The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) too backed this deal stating, “We welcome this agreement between the three countries on uranium fuel supply and call on the world community to support further measures in this area”. On the role of Russia in this deal, one commentator had stated that Russia had “upped the United States in a diplomatic tug-of-war over Iran's nuclear programme. While Washington was busy getting Moscow and Beijing on board for tougher sanctions against Teheran, the Kremlin quietly orchestrated a deal between Iran, Turkey and Brazil for swapping Iranian low-enriched uranium for fuel rods for use in a medical reactor”. Whether the deal has really taken the wind out of the US sails or not is to be seen as the events unfold, but one thing is for certain – it had caught the US off-guard and exposed the reluctance of the US to look for a diplomatic resolution of the issue.




This was very much evident from the assertions of Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, who took no time to wave-away the deal and press for the imposition of fresh sanctions. This is in line with the assertion of Robert Gates in a recent press conference after the unveiling of the US's Nuclear Posture Review. He had threatened Iran that, “all options are on the table” if it does not “play by the rules”. And as we have seen, all options exclude 'talks' and 'diplomatic means'. The immediate reaction of the US administration to the deal, putting it mildly is sceptical. In a statement they have stated, “proposed swap must be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the International Atomic Energy Agency by Iran before it can be considered by the international community”.


As agreed by the three countries (Iran, Brazil and Turkey), Iran on its part had immediately conveyed the details of this deal to the IAEA within one week and declared that it is ready for the fuel exchange. According to article 6 of the agreement, the terms of the swap procedure must be set by a particular document and by Iran's agreements with the Vienna group. After the letter is received by the IAEA, an agreement between Tehran and the agency must be drawn up and signed. The current chief of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano acknowledged the receipt of the letter and praised the uranium swap deal and said it would help ease the tensions around Iran. But the US is in no mood for it.


Hillary Clinton claimed that this time around, the proposal of sanctions has even got the support of Russia and China who were earlier opposed. The US has the solid support of Israel in all its moves against Iran and apart from it unfortunately due to the US dictated pro-imperialist foreign policy pursued by our government, India too is tagged along, having voted against Iran, again under US pressure earlier.




Many experts have pointed out that urging for sanctions on Iran is an ineffective way to address the issue. Even Al Baradei, the former chief of the IAEA who retired few months ago stated that sanctions do not help in finding a solution to the problem. “Negotiations were the only possible way to solve the Iran nuclear problem as further UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic would only intensity confrontation”. And he emphasised that by negotiations he means “unconditional negotiations”.


The US says that it is opposed to the present deal because it leaves too much uranium in the hands of Iran and this could be used to construct a bomb. They also argue that though the deal is 'similar' to the earlier one clinched in 2009 at the insistence of US, France and Russia, it differs in providing Iran the right to take back the uranium it ships to Turkey at any time if it decides that the provisions of the deal “are not respected”. It also states that there is always a chance of Iran proceeding with 'enrichment'.


Western powers suspect Iran of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program. Iran denies Western suspicions about its 'secretive atomic energy program' and states it will continue enriching uranium for fuel for electricity generation and other civil purposes. The 'suspicions' have always remained as such and were never collaborated with evidence to prove their veracity. The US intelligence agencies have stated that they have got no evidence whatsoever to prove that Iran is in the process of developing nuclear weapons. Even the IAEA in its report released in 2008 stated that it had not come up with any evidence to suggest that Iran is running an undeclared nuclear programme. In spite of all the evidence pointing to the absence of nuclear weapon producing capability of Iran, the obsession of US to parrot the same lies reminds one of the 'propaganda' campaign it had run against Iraq before its eventual occupation.


The obsession of US to act against Iran stems from the fact that it wants to have absolute control over the West Asian region. It wants Israel, its trusted lieutenant to remain the sole nuclear power in the region and use this as an 'advantage' over other countries in the region. To achieve a complete domination of the region, it doesn't want any country even with the capability of producing nuclear weapons in this region.


Brazil has condemned this US obsession with sanctions. Lula had stated, “Some people don't want Iran to agree to the proposal... they don't like it. The truth is that Iran, which has been portrayed as an evil unwilling to negotiate, came to the negotiating table”. Of course, the imperialist media machinery immediately started castigating Lula for this positive role he played. They were irked by the increasing assertion of the developing countries in the recent past and the role played by Brazil in this assertion. Brazil has warned against further UN sanctions on Iran, drawing parallels to the bombing of Iraq on the false assumption that it had weapons of mass destruction. Though it is at present a non-permanent member of the UNSC, it had refused to take part in the discussions on the resolution moved by the US.


China and Russia have stated that they are opposed to unilateral imposition of sanctions on Iran and the UNSC should thoroughly discuss before proceeding further. Welcoming the current deal, they stated that it needs to be thoroughly studied. China insists that UN should pursue the dual-track process involving both sanctions and negotiations and should carefully avoid steps that might destabilise the region or affect normal trade. China stated that any draft resolution of the UN should ensure that it does not derail Iran's economic cooperation with the rest of the world. This in fact prevents the US from treating Iran as it had treated Iraq. China does not want the door on diplomatic efforts to be shut pointing to the deal between Iran, Turkey, and Brazil as an example that instils optimism.


Iran has threatened to go back on the deal it had entered with Brazil and Turkey if further sanctions were imposed on it. “If new sanctions are imposed against Iran, it will be clear to the Iranian people that the international 'six' (France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia and China) have only malice and only follow political motives”.


What the UNSC does – whether it goes along with the US and imposes sanctions on Iran or stands to logic and opts for a diplomatic resolution of the issue through discussions and negotiations – should thus be carefully watched. As the president of Syria said, “The West must understand that the region has changed and that the language, policy and approach used by the countries in the past in regards to the region are no longer acceptable”. The question is whether the US understands that the reality has changed? The bigger question of course for us would be, whether the Indian government has its eyes open to acknowledge this changed reality and appreciate the position of its BRIC partner, Brazil?