An unprecedented Iranian government proposal, which could offer a definitive solution to the diplomatic crisis over its nuclear program, is being resisted by Britain.
Iran remains committed to enriching uranium on its own soil (for its nuclear power programme), but indicated seriously for the first time on 13 May that an international consortium could control the enrichment and nuclear fuel manufacturing process.
The idea had previously been floated through back channels with former US diplomats such as former US undersecretary of state Thomas Pickering, working through the UN Association-USA, but this is the first time the Iranian government has publicly accepted the notion of relinquishing direct control over its nuclear enrichment activities.
Pickering made the back-channel discussions public in April, when analysts argued that no response was likely from Iran before presidential elections in the US (this year) and in Iran (next year), due to the lack of international pressure on Tehran.
It is curious therefore that Iran has launched a major initiative now, especially a new version of the “grand bargain” negotiations it proposed to the US secretly in 2003, addressing all the major issues in contention.
The consortium idea has been rebuffed by the US, French and British governments, who have argued that an internationally-controlled process would make it easier for Iran to operate a parallel covert facility.
Sir John Thompson, a former senior British diplomat, has sent an open letter to the British government urging it to consider the Iranian proposal, writing: “To be blunt, western policy is not working.”
Britain’s rejection of the proposal could merely be a veiled retort to the Iranian customs official who recently called for a ban on tie imports because they are “against Iranian culture” - and, perhaps, Ahmadinejad’s smart-casual sartorial sensibilities.