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Iran’s limited enrichment plan can work: the West should take it seriously

Alastair Crooke, a former MI6 agent in the Middle East, explains why the West needs to adjust its approach to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

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With the recent activation of the Bushehr nuclear reactor – a fully International Atomic Energy Agency-safeguarded facility – Iran has crossed the line. The Islamic Republic is no longer an aspirant member to the nuclear “club,” but a nuclear state.

It is therefore no longer realistic for the West to propose to negotiate with Iran while applying coercive sanctions as if it were a pre-nuclear state.

Bushehr’s fuel presently is supplied by the Russians, but this foreign fuel soon will be exchanged for Iranian fuel. And Iran plans many more reactors. No state in such a position – with its domestic industry becoming heavily dependent on nuclear-generated electricity – is likely to continue to allow a foreign state to be the sole supplier of its fuel. That would effectively hold hostage the greater part of its domestic economy, with foreigners able, on a whim, to bring it all to a halt by pulling the plug on further supplies.

Since the context to the nuclear issue has changed, inevitably the substance of negotiation must change as well.

The US arrives at this Bushehr moment in the midst of a long debate about what to do if Iran were to reach nuclear “break-out capability.”

A dilemma for the US

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