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Iran's Nuclear Swap Deal: Victory Or Retreat?

Conservative lawmaker Ahmad Tavakoli said the deal goes against Iran's national interests.
Conservative lawmaker Ahmad Tavakoli said the deal goes against Iran's national interests.
The nuclear swap deal signed in Tehran on May 17 has sparked domestic criticism from officials as well as the opposition.

Under the deal, Iran has agreed to send its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for nuclear fuel.

The criticism comes despite the celebration of the deal as a landmark agreement and a success in Iran's state news agencies and also by government officials.

The conservative newspaper "Jomhuri Eslami" said in its May 18 editorial that the deal is a retreat in the face of "the greediness of the West' and that the Islamic republic should not accept it.

The paper said Iran should not agree to ship its enriched uranium to any foreign country.

"What is the difference between Turkey and other countries that the gentlemen don't see any problem in doing the swap in Turkey? If the U.S. and other members of the so-called 5+1 countries want to betray Iran and not to respect their commitment, they can do it in any country." "Jomhuri Eslami" writes, adding that emphasizing the swap inside Iran is the "right policy" to follow.

The deal was reportedly discussed today at a closed-door parliamentary session, during which the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Said Jalili, presented a report on the agreement signed by Iran, Turkey, and Brazil to the lawmakers.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said it was essential for the parliament and the government to "move in one direction and have one voice on this important and national issue."

Yet several lawmakers have already expressed skepticism and criticized the nuclear deal.

Ahmad Tavakoli, a conservative lawmaker who heads the parliament's Strategic Research Center, has said that the deal goes against Iran's national interests.

"The declaration that has been called a nuclear swap deal does not secure our national interests and it should be renamed Iran's nuclear fuel transfer," he was quoted as saying on May 17.

Tavakoli added that Iran had now lost its strongest lever in the nuclear talks.

"If this was meant to break the deadlock in the talks and if the deadlock must be ended at any price, then why did we resist for several years to obtain the people's right?" Tavakoli said in comments published on several Iranian news websites.

He also said that under the constitution, such a deal can only be implemented after it is adopted by the parliament. He said lawmakers are preparing a statement in support of the deal that will include several conditions, such as the cancelation of all previous sanctions, official acknowledgement of Iran's right to enrich uranium, and the implementation of the swap deal in several stages.

Tavakoli said the nuclear deal will increase Turkey's stature in the region, while decreasing Iran's.

Another lawmaker, Dariush Ghanbari, has said that lawmakers are concerned that some of Iran's achievements might be lost under the swap deal. He added that lawmakers are wondering why Iran needed mediators to obtain nuclear fuel.

"This is a serious question: what was the motivation of the two countries [Turkey and Brazil] to mediate? The content of the deal shows that we give more enriched uranium that what we will receive and lawmakers are wondering about the reason? The other issue is that to what extent Turkey and Brazil can fulfill their commitments?" Ghanbari said in an interview with the website.

A commentary posted on the "Kaleme" website close to opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi has also blasted the deal, saying that the agreement seems to be the same offer made by Western countries to Iran that the country has now accepted without gaining any advantage.

"A look at the events of the past few days has strengthened the hypothesis that the government has given in to Western demands in order to control the situation inside the country," it said.

On May 16, ahead of Iran's announcement that it had accepted the swap deal, a group of national religious activists expressed their support for the deal in an open letter e-mailed to RFE/RL.

The activists said in their statement that the deal is in line with the national interests of the Iranian people, who they said are suffering because of the sanctions, which are the result of their government's "adventurism and imprudent' foreign policy.

The activists, who include well-known figures such as Ezatollah Sahabi and Taghi Rahmani, said they believe access to nuclear energy is the absolute right of the Iranians as well as other rights, including the right to economic well-being, freedom, and democracy.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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