In what would be a significant concession, Obama administration officials say they could support allowing Iran to maintain a crucial element of its disputed nuclear program if Tehran took other major steps to curb its ability to develop a nuclear bomb.
U.S. officials said they might agree to let Iran continue enriching uranium up to 5% purity, which is the upper end of the range for most civilian uses, if its government agrees to the unrestricted inspections, strict oversight and numerous safeguards that the United Nations has long demanded....
A senior administration official said that if Iran fulfills U.S. and other world powers' demands for strict enforcement of U.N. monitoring and safeguards, "there can be a discussion" of allowing low-level domestic enrichment, "and maybe we can get there, potentially."
But the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, emphasized that such discussions remained only a small possibility because Iran has shown so little willingness to meet international demands.
Gary Samore, the top White House official on nuclear nonproliferation, left open the door to Iranian enrichment in recent comments, saying the decision on which parts of Tehran's program can continue "is a matter for negotiations."
The frequent complaint of Democrats was that the Bush administration had gone to war in Iraq despite the lack of an explicit UN mandate; now the Obama administration is prepared to defy the UN in pursuit of an illusory peace.