ran backed the Obama administration into check in its ongoing nuclear chess match by announcing its own nuclear fuel swap deal after a Western-backed plan fell apart last fall.
The country left the Obama administration an out by declaring it would continue uranium enrichment even as it proposes shipping nuclear material to Turkey. To become official, the deal still has to be agreed to by the same group of nations that pursued the proposal Iran rejected in October.
But the announcement, regardless, makes the administration’s job more difficult should it continue to pursue international sanctions.
“If this continues, it cuts the knee caps off the administration’s sanctions effort,” said John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the Bush administration. “I think it’s a jujitsu move by the Iranians that undercuts the Obama policy.”
The administration for months has been in a diplomatic campaign at the United Nations to build support for tough sanctions against Iran. U.S. officials upped their condemnation of the country earlier this month after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a U.N. speech in New York City to accuse the United States of “acts of terror.”
Under the terms of the latest proposal, Iran would ship about 2,600 pounds of enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for fuel rods. Those rods would be enriched to a level strong enough for a research reactor but not a warhead.
But Bolton said the apparent gesture merely gives powerful countries like Russia and China — two of the five permanent Security Council members — a ready excuse to back away from sanctions. Plus Brazil and Turkey are non-permanent members of the Security Council and unlikely to punish Iran after winning the country’s cooperation in a deal they brokered.
“At a minimum this slows everything in the Security Council down,” Bolton told FoxNews.com. “They’re just playing out the string here.”
The Obama administration, fully aware of the talks with Turkey and Brazil, signaled last week that it would continue to press for sanctions for defying past U.N. Security Council demands that Tehran cease its uranium enrichment.
“Iran’s senior officials continue to say they will not talk about their nuclear program with us,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday. “So we are working closely with our U.K. and other partners on a new Security Council resolution affirming that there are serious consequences should Iran continue to flout its international obligations.”
The key difference between the October deal and this one is that Iran has enriched a lot more uranium since then. The 2,600-pound amount was thought to represent two-thirds of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile last fall. Now it’s roughly half, so the deal may not be as enticing to the United States and other countries.
Plus Iran reportedly will continue producing 20 percent enrichment uranium. And Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that Iran reserves the right to call on Turkey to return the uranium “swiftly and unconditionally” to Iran if provisions of the agreement are not followed.
FoxNews.com’s Judson Berger and Fox News’ James Rosen contributed to this report.