воскресенье, 9 ноября 2014 г.

Obama Urged Iranian Leader to See Common Interests

By David E. Sanger

In a letter last month to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Obama urged Iran’s supreme leader to seize the opportunity of the Nov. 24 deadline for negotiating a nuclear agreement with the West, arguing that Iran’s interests in the Middle East would be served by proving its interest in nuclear technology was solely for the production of electricity, according to senior administration officials.

The letter, first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, also noted that the United States and Iran had common interests in fighting the forces of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, in Iraq, and reassured Iran’s leaders that, in the words of one administration official, “we’re only there to fight ISIL and you should let us do it, because it will help you.”

Officials would not say if Mr. Obama had received a response, but past letters to Ayatollah Khamenei have usually resulted in lengthy diatribes about American intentions in the region.

The main sections of the letter were intended to urge the supreme leader to make a fundamental choice on a nuclear deal before his negotiators enter their last set of talks, first in Oman this weekend, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, and then in Vienna. Many senior American officials fear that the result could be inconclusive, producing a vague statement of principles and another extension.

That process could drag on, they fear, lead the Iranians to resume some fuel production they have halted, encourage the Saudis to begin enrichment of their own and perhaps revive Israeli threats to take military action.

But a collapse would also be likely to mean Iranians would see no further sanctions relief — and perhaps new sanctions from the new Republican Congress. “My fear is that the Iranians will see the new Senate as a sign that the president is weak, and that he wouldn’t be able to get sanctions lifted,” said one European negotiator dealing with the Iranians, who would not speak on the record because of the delicacy of the talks.

Mr. Obama’s letter was worded generally; it did not get into specific negotiating points. But it appeared intended to drive home to the hard-liners in the Iranian leadership that the elements now under negotiation offered Iran a way to sign a deal and still be left with a small nuclear enrichment capability. Those elements include an informal agreement with Russia to convert Iran’s low-enriched uranium into reactor fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran’s only commercial nuclear reactor

But Ayatollah Khamenei has not backed away from his demand that in seven years or so Iran would begin a tenfold increase in its nuclear enrichment capability. That would reduce its “breakout time,” the time required to make one bomb’s worth of highly enriched uranium, to weeks.

Iran has lived up to all of the provisions of a temporary agreement with the West it signed a year ago. But a report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday confirmed that it has thwarted inspectors seeking information about suspected experiments and designs that would point to a military use of its nuclear program.

The report indicated that Iran is producing low-enriched uranium steadily but slowly. Its current stocks of reactor-grade fuel, if converted into highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium, would be enough to produce more than a half-dozen weapons. It is unclear how much of that fuel will be shipped to Russia if the current negotiations are successful.

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