Proposal by Hossain Mousavian

I saw this article by David Ignatius today. In it, he reports on a conversation he had with Hossain Mousavian, about whom I posted earlier. In this conversation, Mousavian reportedly made an intriguing suggestion for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. Here’s how Ignatius reports it:

An interesting bridging proposal comes from Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian negotiator who’s now a visiting fellow at Princeton University. He told me this week that in addition to capping enrichment at 5 percent, Iran might agree to a “zero stockpile” of this low-enriched fuel. A joint committee with the P5+1 would assess Iran’s domestic needs, and any enriched uranium would either be converted immediately to the needed fuel rods or panels, or it would be exported.

In exchange, Mousavian argues, the P5+1 would recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium and would gradually lift sanctions.

This intriguing proposal lacks official Iranian support, but it would address Israel’s biggest concern and would surely interest American officials. Mousavian also notes Iran’s willingness to allow much wider inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency into what are known as “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program. This transparency proposal would allow the IAEA to monitor any possible breakout, but U.S. officials caution that if the Iranians decided to go for a bomb they could simply expel the IAEA inspectors and make the dash.


This proposal includes some elements that I hadn’t heard of before, in particular the “zero stockpile” idea. Obviously, implementation of this idea would be complicated and certainly imperfect. But in principle it does seem to address some of the core concerns voiced by the P5+1, about Iran’s potential ability to “break out” into nuclear weapons manufacture.

It seems to me that this proposal essentially meets all of the reasonable interests and expressed desires of both sides. Under the proposal, Iran would get to keep its nuclear fuel cycle capability, and have its legal right to do so recognized. The P5+1 would get pretty much the maximum reasonable accountability and transparency of Iran’s fissile material stores, with a cap on enrichment at 5%, and the export out of Iran of all uranium enriched higher than 5%, as well as all excess 5% enriched uranium.  I think this is exactly the kind of proposal that should be seen as meeting the reasonable interests and requirements of both sides, and that provides a realistic and face-saving way for both sides to claim victory through compromise.

I think that if P5+1 negotiators are smart, they will see this kind of proposal as the best solution they are realistically likely to get to this impasse, and that they will embrace it as providing a way out of the crisis that avoids war.

I’m well aware that Israel, under its current leadership, is unlikely to be satisfied with such a resolution. But that should not stop the P5+1 from being reasonable and pragmatic, and therefore supporting such a resolution, in the interests of international peace and security.


5 Comments on “Proposal by Hossain Mousavian”

  1. Cyrus Safdari says:

    Dan, Iran long ago offered this “zero stockpile” compromise, back in 2004: “Immediately convert all enriched uranium to fuel rods, thereby precluding the possibility of further enrichment” –

    More recently Iran announced that 1/3rd of their stockpile of 20% enriched uranium would be converted to fuel plates, thereby making it practically impossible for the material to be used to make bombs. This is NOT what a country that wants to obtain nuclear weapons option would do, btw.

    This and other Iranian compromise offers were ignored by the US because ultimately the issue is not really about the “Iranian nuclear threat” — that’s just a pretext, just as “WMDs in Iraq” was just a pretext cooked up to justify a war. The last thing the US wants is to resolve this standoff peacefully whilst leaving the regime in place in Iran.

  2. […] founder of the Arms Control Law blog, Dan Joyner, provides a favorable examination of a proposal for ending the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program that was made by former […]

  3. […] founder of the Arms Control Law blog, Dan Joyner, provides a favorable examination of a proposal for ending the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program that was made by former […]

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