As Richard Weitz mentioned in his WPR column on the IAEA’s Iran report yesterday, although Iran has increased the number of centrifuges in its enrichment facility, the number of centrifuges actually enriching uranium has decreased. So far, the speculative explanations have ranged from scheduled maintenance to technical difficulties to a political decision.
This Le Monde article on Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili’s announcement that Iran has prepared a new proposal on its nuclear program and is willing to retsart negotiations with the P5+1, is the first time I’ve seen it suggested that the ambiguous slowdown could in principle be characterized as a “freeze” of the sort demanded by the West. In other words, having mastered the fuel enrichment cycle, Iran might continue installing centrifuge cascades without feeding uranium into them.
The question of just what could constitute a freeze has been floating around for a while, in part because a creative answer could function as a face-saving way to get negotiations back on track. It will be interesting to see just how flexible the Obama administration is willing to be in this regard. I suspect that this might have been more acceptable back before Iran’s presidential election. Less so, now, though.