Iran’s Civilian Enrichment Remains a Sticking Point in Talks

West Dubs Self-Sufficiency in Fuel 'Unrealistic'

The goal line keeps shifting in the P5+1 talks with Iran, and after Iran did everything they were asked in the interim deal, the expectation of having a civilian nuclear program with some manner of self-sufficiency at all is suddenly being presented as a “sticking point” that could kill a deal.

US and other Western officials have been conceding for awhile that Iran has every right to a civilian nuclear program, and uranium enrichment to a level well short of weapons grade. Even though weapons grade is 90 percent, Iran agreed to give up its 20 percent enrichment, and is now only doing 3.5 percent enrichment. And the line keeps shifting.

Now, Iran’s baseline expectation, that they’d be allowed to continue to produce 3.5 percent uranium in the quantities needed to fuel the Bushehr nuclear power plant, is being condemned by the West as “unrealistic.”

Though Western officials are presenting the enrichment as a weapons risk, there is no credible basis for that claim, and rather the big driving concern seems to be from Russia, who built the plant and has a 10-year contract to provide fuel. The fuel contract is pretty lucrative, and would be even moreso if Iran lacks self-sufficiency after the 10 years is over, meaning there is an economic interest in keeping Iran’s plants dependent on them going forward.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.