Snap analysis: Iran nuclear deal could put Obama in bind

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – Iran’s surprise agreement on a nuclear fuel swap deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey could stall U.S. President Barack Obama’s push for new U.N. sanctions if Tehran’s move creates divisions among world powers.

Iran reached an accord on Monday to send the bulk of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey for processing, reversing its refusal to accept an earlier U.N.-mediated arrangement.

The White House response mixed skepticism and caution, saying it would be a “positive step” it Iran fulfilled its latest pledge but that its insistence on continuing to enrich uranium at home would still violate earlier U.N. resolutions.

* The deal could put Obama in a bind, limiting his room to maneuver on a new sanctions package that had been gaining international momentum, especially with pivotal countries like Russia and China.

Although Washington has reason to distrust Tehran’s intentions and believe it is trying to buy time and split the major powers, Obama could not afford to reject the deal out of hand if it met some of the international community’s demands.

As part of Obama’s balancing act, the White House acknowledged the efforts by Turkey and Brazil but put the onus on Tehran to dispel “serious concerns” about its nuclear program or else “face consequences, including sanctions.”

It was unclear, however, whether that meant the Obama administration was ready to ease pressure for swift U.N. action on a fourth round of sanctions.

* For now, Obama will have a hard time making further headway with China and Russia, both veto-holding U.N. Security Council members.

Both are also trading partners with Iran who have been reluctant to impose punitive measures as harsh as those the Obama administration is seeking, and will be urging U.S. patience to determine exactly what Tehran is offering.

Brazil, which now holds a rotating seat on the Security Council and also has strong business ties with Tehran, will be another key holdout. It was Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who went to Tehran to secure the deal.

* Chances are, even after careful study, the Obama administration will not see Iran’s concessions as enough to completely abandon the U.S.-led sanctions push.

Tehran has made clear that despite the fuel swap deal it intends to continue enriching uranium at home despite international demands that it suspend such activities.

The West suspects such atomic work is aimed at making bombs. Tehran says its program is strictly for civilian purposes, such as power generation and medical isotopes.

If that is the case, Obama will face the tough task of trying to rebuild support for sanctions while other countries are less eager to go along.

White House officials believe Obama has gained credibility on the issue by having first sought to engage Iran diplomatically. Obama critics say, however, the president’s outreach strategy only showed his administration was soft on the nuclear standoff with Tehran.

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(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Patricia Wilson, Bill Trott and Eric Walsh)

Snap analysis: Iran nuclear deal could put Obama in bind