Our Three-Day International Nightmare May Soon Be Over

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It looks as though Iranian negotiators have agreed to a draft proposal for transferring the Islamic Republic's known uranium stockpiles.

The Great Panic of October 19, 2009 may be drawing to an end. This of course doesn't account for the possibility of any secret uranium caches, but it does reflect a willingness from Tehran to alleviate primary concerns surrounding the regime's enrichment activity.

Keep in mind that Security Council gridlock pretty much mirrors 2006 circumstances; when Iran rejected a similar proposal by the Russians to enrich Iranian uranium. Western leverage appears no greater today than it was back then, and the differences between then and now are subtle. One reason for the sea change is the domestic discomfort inside Iran. Still smarting from the June 12 unrest, Tehran has some tough decisions to make in the coming months on public gas subsidies and declining oil prices are limiting Iranian options—to fulfill domestic consumption needs, the country must diversify its energy production. Multilateral or unilateral sanctions are not something they can afford at this time.

But I believe it was Washington's acknowledgment of those energy needs and nuclear rights that has made a big difference in getting Tehran to play ball on this. To be fair, President Bush also paid similar lip service to Iran's nuclear rights; but without direct talks Iran had little reason to move on the issue and calm Western nerves (again, that divided Security Council matter).

The Iranian regime wants the bomb for security and regional legitimacy. If the West can secure for them the first two items, Tehran may be willing to bend on the first.

We'll see what happens on Friday; the deadline for both Washington and Tehran to approve the deal.

(AP Photos)

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