OK so people have been writing to ask me about these reports that Iran is supposedly suddenly amenable to "compromise" on the 20% uranium enrichment, and I guess I have to remind some folks: Iran already offered to cease 20% enrichment as long as Iran could have the reactor fuel necessary for the Tehran Research Reactor, which uses 20% enriched uranium in its fuel rods. Ahmadinejad himself personally came to New York in September 2011 and repeated the offer to cease making 20% enriched uranium. Of course this offer was naturally characterized as merely a "bluff" but some pundits encouraged the Obama administration to take them up on the offer.
So assuming that the US has now decided to accept this offer, it isn't due to some sort of new, sanctions-induced flexibility by the Iranians, even though the Obama administration will no doubt crow about it as an indicator of the "success" of their sanctions policy. In fact such a deal would amount to little more than a tactical realignment of the US positionm and proclomations of victory by the Obama administration on this point would be simply PR. The real issue which would have to be addressed in any sort of real deal over the nuclear issue is the basic right of Iran to have the full fuel cycle and a robust nuclear program, akin to Germany or Japan or Argentina's, in accordance with Iran's "inalienable" rights under the NPT. And like I said before, I don't see that issue being resolved now or ever, since Israel won't accept Iran with a nuclear program.
So the Obama administration can crow all it wants about supposedly stopping 20% enrichment in Iran, but the fact is that such a deal -- if it happens -- is merely tangential and would amount to little more than simply accepting an Iranian offer which was first proposed by Iran many years ago. Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif explained some of the details of Iran's proposals first made in 2005:
Limit the enrichment of nuclear materials so that they are suitable for energy production but not for weaponry;
Immediately convert all enriched uranium to fuel rods, thereby precluding the possibility of further enrichment;
Limit the enrichment program to meet the contingency fuel requirements of Iran's power reactors and future light-water reactors;
In any case, about the Tehran Research Reactor: Need I remind everyone that this reactor was given by the US to Iran (along with weapons-grade plutonium) and is used to make medical isotopes for Iran's 850,000 cancer patients. As it is, the US is demanding that Iran not make the fuel for the reactor and not buy the fuel either - and those 850,000 cancer patients should just drop dead. Had the US not prevented Iran from simply purchasing the fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, the Iranians would not have had a reason to start 20% enrichment in the first place. But as a result of that decision, the US is now in a position of having to offer inducements to Iran to cease that project. And considering that the Tehran Research Reactor is totally monitored by the IAEA, and is far too small to even theoretically useful for making nukes then preventing Iran from buying the fuel was really an idiotic move by the US in the first place, since this simply encouraged Iran to enrich uranium to a higher degree. Thus, the whole policy amounted to the US shooting itself in the foot. Any deal with Iran over the 20% fuel which does not address the bigger, underlying issues therefore amounts to little more than a corrective action by the US in its usual agenda, and not some sort of sanctions success.
Still, I suppose any movement on the nuclear issue is to be welcome, even if it doesn't address the real issues, and even if the Obama administration tries to spin the bejesus out of any such deal as a victory. I guess no longer shooting yourself in the foot can be considered to be some sort of victory in current world affairs.