The Obama administration is preparing to present a new nuclear deal to Iran, sources tell the New York Times. But the terms in the proposed agreement are said to be harsher than those in the deal that Tehran rejected last year.
U.S. officials have been hoping that new and broad economic sanctions imposed last year will make Iran more willing to deal. But the Iranians still don't seem to be in a mood to compromise. When the E.U.'s foreign policy chief invited them to meet in Vienna next month, they demanded first to be told when the sanctions would end, when Israel would give up what they called "the Zionist bomb" and when the United States would eliminate its own nuclear weapons.
The new deal would require Iran to ship more than 4,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium out of the country. That's an increase of more than two-thirds from last year's proposal -- reflecting the increased amounts of uranium that Iran has enriched since then. Iran also would have to end production of nuclear fuel that it's enriching to 20 percent -- a key step on the way to bomb-grade levels.
Intelligence analysts concluded that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supported last year's deal, but that he was overruled by Ayatollah Khamenei. Last week, the Ayatollah was reported to have declared in a speech: "The world bullying powers have created a brouhaha about sanctions on Iran, but this nation has overcome sanctions over the past 30 years with its patience and resistance."
Still, the economic sanctions have been more severe than many people anticipated. Iran has had trouble refueling planes in Europe, getting some ports to accept their ships, and attracting investment for oil production, say analysts.
One American official summed up the challenge like this: "We have to convince them that life will get worse, not better, if they don't begin to move."
(Photo of Khamenei: AP/Vahid Salemi)