Obama Open to Iranian Enrichment?

One key issue in the Iran policy debate concerns whether or not the United States could live with a deal wherein Iran verifiably foreswears nuclear weapons but does not foreswear uranium enrichment. Since Barack Obama won the election, people who oppose talks with Iran have largely stopped bothering to actually oppose talks with Iran. Instead, the Israeli government and its allies in the United States (in congress and on the outside) have a threefold strategy to bend-but-not-break on the Iran issue. First, they want to make sure that military options stay on the table. Second, they want guarantees that the talking phase will be brief. And last, they want the United States to walk away from the table unless we can get the Iranians to stop enriching.

This last one probably ensures that talks would fail. But Steven Walt makes a nice catch and observes that Obama’s Turkey speech included a key bit of language that underscores how serious the administration is about reaching a diplomatic accord:

Finally, I was struck by the language he used when addressing Iran’s nuclear program. He said that “the peace of the region will also be advanced if Iran forgoes any nuclear weapons ambitions” (my emphasis), adding that “Iran’s leaders must choose whether they will build a weapon or build a better future for their people.” Was this a subtle hint that the United States might be willing to tolerate Iranian enrichment, provided that we are confident that it was not masking a covert weapons program? Hmmmmm.

Of course there’s still the issue of whether or not the Iranians are interested in diplomacy.