“And Elijah came near unto all the people, and said: ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ And the people answered him not a word.” (1 Kings 18:21)
Iran and the US are reportedly on the verge of a compromise which would allow the Islamic Republic to retain centrifuges in exchange for regional stability, according to media reports earlier this week. Israeli media sources quoted unnamed European officials Tuesday, while AP made similar claims.
According to Israel Army Radio, the US agreed to allow Iran to keep 6,500 centrifuges and to lift all limits on Iran after ten years. According to AP, at the same time the deal would reduce Iran’s ability to build actual nuclear weapons.
The amount of uranium gas it could feed its centrifuges would be limited in the deal, and it would commit to shipping enough of the enriched uranium it produces out of the country to render it incapable of building a nuclear bomb. Iran has consistently claimed its nuclear program is intended for exclusively peaceful purposes.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told local press that the two sides “have narrowed the gaps” to reaching a deal, but that “some issues and differences remain.”
“The West has realized that it should recognize the rights of the Iranian people,” the Iranian Mehr news agency quoted Rouhani saying Tuesday.
There is concern the reduction in capacity without an actual reduction in nuclear centrifuges could leave Iran with the ability to quickly advance towards nuclear weapons capability.
Although the US denied an earlier report that it had agreed to 80 percent of Iran’s terms of negotiation last week, this week, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki conceded there are a range of discussion going on. Mostly, she said, they focused on cutting off the pathways which would enable Iran to achieve a nuclear bomb.
“There are many pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together,” Psaki said to reporters, including how many and how Iranian centrifuges would operate.
EU diplomats told Israeli sources that in exchange for US concessions on the number of centrifuges it would allow, Iran must provide stability in certain parts of the region currently in turmoil, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
According to Army Radio, the EU opposes such linkage of nuclear concessions to geopolitical concerns. The Europeans claim the talks have become increasingly centered on the US and Iran, and expressed concern that Secretary of State John Kerry is not keeping other parties in the loop.
The number of centrifuges which would be allowed to remain operational has been the sticking point of negotiations for some time. A year ago, Washington demanded Iran shut down more than 8,000 of its 10,000 centrifuges. Iran refused. When talks resumed in November, the US had adjusted that number to only 5,500, but Tehran continued to hold its ground.
The next round of negotiations begins Friday, alongside the Munich Security Conference.