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Israeli Analyst Gets it Right: “Try Out the Turkish Option” on Iran Nuclear Swap

May 23, 2010

“Lacking any other worthy alternative” to the nuclear fuel exchange deal with Iran, Israeli journalist Zvi Bar’el, writes, “there is no reason not to try out the Turkish option.” The Ha’aretz editorial board member, Middle East analyst, and former Washington correspondent is right. The Turkey-Brazil-brokered deal with Iran announced a week ago offers the best chance of opening the way to a resolution of international concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and improved U.S.-Iran relations. Negotiations to close the deal and build further agreement may not be a strong suit, but the only other cards in the hands of the U.S. and its allies-more sanctions and military actions-are a pair of deuces.

Bar’el recognizes the distance Iran has traveled in agreeing to the fuel exchange deal, but he fears that the initial U.S. response has made dialogue well-nigh impossible:

…after the blow Obama struck at the exchange deal, it is doubtful whether there is room for any sort of dialogue between him and the Iranian regime. Israel is of course pleased with the turn of events, but this is the first time Iran withdrew from the red lines it had set a few months ago. It is willing to transfer its uranium to another state, it is not insisting that the transfer be done in stages, and it wants full dialogue – on all issues – with the international community.

But Bar’el may be too pessimistic. Despite Secretary of State Clinton’s smack down of Turkey, Brazil, and Iran last week, Iran has defied the skeptics. It has followed through and met the agreement’s first deadline: it presented its official position on the agreement to the International Atomic Energy Agency on schedule. President Obama has at least had one soothing phone call with the Turkey’s prime minister. Now the president should take Bar’el’s advice the “try out the Turkish option.”

Official Israeli reaction: Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor had a remarkably mild,  even constructive, reaction May 24 to the Turkey-Brazil-Iran deal.  Meridor said—no surprise— that he thought U.S.-led sanctions against Iran could work, but he also told reporters that Iran’s agreement to send some of its enriched uranium abroad  “may be a sign that they understand something needs to be done.”  OK, he did add, “Or it could be a trick.” But this kind of ‘let’s see what this really means’ attitude is not a bad starting point.  The Obama administration should take note.

One Comment
  1. Russell permalink
    May 24, 2010 11:09 am

    Like you, I am very disappointed in the Obama-Clinton response to Iran, which might be appropriate for North Korea. This is a “no-cost” option worth a try.

    We have begin somewhere; why not now, with Iran.

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