Prior to the start of the P5+1 talks in Geneva that ended earlier this week, five U.S. Senators wrote a letter to President Obama (first reported by Josh Rogin), demanding he not make any deal with Iran that would permit any domestic uranium enrichment. If that became the U.S. negotiating position, it would make any deal with the Islamic republic more or less impossible. As I wrote earlier, this is the view of non-proliferation analysts and Iran experts alike. It also was a truth recognized by the foreign minister of Russia back in 2009.
In a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, after being pressed why Russia didn’t focus on the Iranian missile programs, told Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) that Iran would put a high priority on having a full nuclear fuel cycle, including domestic enrichment.
According to the April 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow (my emphasis):
Lavrov said he was certain Iran wanted to have a full nuclear fuel cycle and would negotiate from that basis. It was unfortunate that the U.S. had not accepted the proposals a few years before when Iran only had 32 centrifuges; now they had over 5,000. Nonetheless, Russia wanted Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA and implement, and eventually ratify, the Additional Protocol. As agreed to in the E3-plus-3 statement, Russia wanted Iran to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, in a verifiable way.
¶13. (C) Lavrov commended the new U.S. approach to Iran, welcoming President Obama’s readiness for the U.S. to engage “fully” in talks with Iran. Willingness to discuss “all” the issues was a welcome step, and one which Russia had been advocating for several years, Lavrov said.