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What’s behind the new talks about Iran’s nuclear weapon program ?

By Missing Peace

Rouhani

The US and EU welcomed  Iran’s professed willingness to compromise on its nuclear weapons program after talks in Geneva this week. The White House said in a statement by spokesman Jay Carney that a new Iranian proposal showed “a level of seriousness and substance not seen before”.

The exact details of the new Iranian proposal were not released, but it became clear that Iran stands firm on its right to continue to enrich uranium. Javad Zarif Iran’s minister of foreign affairs said during a press conference after the talks, that Iran has the right to enrich uranium for nuclear power purposes.

Israeli experts and politicians have repeatedly warned that suspension of the uranium enrichment program is not enough. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has insisted that Iran must remove all enriched uranium from its territory in order to prevent break out capability.

US analysts

Analysts and politicians in the US share this view.  The New York Times piled on increasingly pointed concerns – also leveled in recent days by senators, analysts, and other outlets – regarding any deal between Iran and the West that would leave Tehran with sufficient capacity to follow North Korea’s example and sneak across the nuclear finish line. Statements and leaks had indicated that Iran would offer to limit some of its future enrichment capabilities while retaining all of its already-enriched material.

The Times noted that such a deal would “would have been a significant concession to the West [a year ago] but Iran’s nuclear abilities have advanced so far since then that experts say it will take far more than that to assure the West that Tehran does not have the capacity to quickly produce a nuclear weapon.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog, has documented how over the last year Iran has installed more centrifuges, and more advanced centrifuges, significantly shortening the window it would take the regime to go nuclear. The regime’s scientists are now able to create weapons-grade nuclear material out of even low-enriched uranium of 3.5% purity along a dramatically shortened timeline.

Dr. Gary Samore, a senior NSC aide on nonproliferation during President Obama’s first term and president of United Against Nuclear Iran, bluntly told the Times “ending production of 20 percent enriched uranium is not sufficient to prevent breakout, because Iran can produce nuclear weapons using low-enriched uranium and a large number of centrifuge machines.” Iran has asserted its absolute right to enrich uranium – a stance not recognized by the U.S. – and has foreclosed the possibility that it will export its stockpile of enriched uranium.

Ballistic missiles

Another worrying development this week which showed Iran plans to continue its nuclear weapons program, was the announcement last Sunday that Teheran is planning to send its second monkey into space. This deepened concerns that Iran is making steady progress in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.  

Israeli PM Netanyahu said during his UN speech earlier this month that the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles proves that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon. Those missiles are only produced to carry a nuclear warhead, Netanyahu said in New York

Irwin Cotler

Professor Irwin Cotler,  the former justice minister of Canada, wrote in an op-ed for The Jerusalem post this week that due to Iran’s track record of using negotiations as a delay tactic while uranium continues to be enriched, only a verifiable abandonment of Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit should result in easing of international sanctions.

He summed up how this abandonment should be achieved:

• 1. Iran must abide by, and fully implement, its obligations under Security Council resolutions and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iranian compliance should not be seen as a “concession” for which the West must necessarily reward Iran, but rather a set of obligations that Iran must independently adhere to and comply with.

• 2. Iran must suspend its uranium enrichment program, so that negotiations – or negotiations about negotiations – cannot be used as a way of buying time for a nuclear breakthrough.

For such a suspension to be verifiable, Iran must transfer its stockpile of enriched uranium to the custody of another country, where it will be held in escrow pending irradiation.

With appropriate inspection and monitoring, the uranium can then be made available to Iran for use in its civil nuclear program.

• 3. Iran must suspend its heavy water production facilities at Arak.

Heavy water is an essential component for producing plutonium, which is the nuclear component North Korea used to build its own nuclear weapon. Iran’s stated justification for development of the Arak facility is the production of medical isotopes for research purposes, but this material can already be produced in the Tehran Research Reactor or obtained from international markets.

It is unacceptable that the Iranian regime has both ignored a UN Security Council resolution requiring the cessation of construction in Arak, and failed to provide the IAEA with updated design information about the reactor since 2006.

• 4. Iran must verifiably close and dismantle its nuclear enrichment plant at Fordow, embedded in a mountain near Qom, and which the Iranians initially denied even existed.

Otherwise, Iranian enrichment at Fordow will enter a zone of impenetrability rendering it closed to inspection and immune to any military strike.

• 5. Iran must provide the international community with specific details regarding both its past proliferation activities, and its plans to build 10 additional uranium enrichment facilities as announced in 2009 and 2010. It is Iran’s responsibility to satisfy the IAEA’s concerns with regard to enrichment activities at Fordow and Natanz, plutonium production at Arak, and laser enrichment at Lashkar Ab’ad, as well as to provide a substantive response to the IAEA’s request for information about Iran’s planned nuclear archipelago of additional uranium facilities.

As well, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which exposed Iran’s uranium facility at Natanz and its heavy water facility at Arak, now says that it has information about a center for nuclear weaponization research in Tehran that the regime is seeking to shield from detection.

• 6. In this regard, Iran must allow IAEA inspectors immediate and unfettered access to any suspected nuclear sites. Indeed, despite Iran’s obligation as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to open its nuclear sites and installations for inspection, the Iranian regime has frequently misled the IAEA about the extent of its nuclear activities. Robust and fulsome IAEA monitoring – including frequent, unannounced inspections and unfettered remote monitoring of suspected nuclear-related facilities – must therefore be identified as a clear condition for any further talks.

• 7. In particular, Iranian authorities must grant the IAEA access to the Parchin military complex near Tehran. As the IAEA has reported, Parchin has been the site of highexplosive testing, possibly in conjunction with nuclear materials – a strong indicator of weapons development – yet Iranian authorities have repeatedly denied such access to the IAEA. Satellite imagery makes clear that recent activities at Parchin have included the asphalting of large areas of the complex, which would effectively prevent inspectors from taking soil samples to determine whether nuclear weaponizationrelated experiments have taken place.

• 8. Iran’s installation of an advanced centrifuge generation (IR- 2m) added to its existing arsenal gives Iran undetectable “break-out capacity” for nuclear weaponization.

One should appreciate that when Rouhani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator a decade ago, Iran had only 160 centrifuges. Today there are more than 18,000, representing a critical break-out capacity. Any agreement must verifiably limit the number and type of centrifuges and maintain it well below the number currently installed at Natanz and Fordow.

• 9. While President Obama told the UN General Assembly that, “the Supreme Leader has issued a fatwah against the development of nuclear weapons,” no text of such a fatwah has been found, including the examination of 493 of the most recent fatwahs.

On the contrary; Iran’s enhanced enrichment of weapons grade uranium; its research into weaponization; the sophistication of its missile arsenal; and the masking of its Fordow enrichment facility say otherwise.

• 10. Finally, nuclear negotiations must not ignore, marginalize or distract from Iran’s massive domestic repression. When the US negotiated an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union in 1975, it did not turn a blind eye to the USSR’s human rights abuses; instead, the Helsinki Final Act linked the security, economic, and human rights baskets.

It is clear from earlier leaked details that Iran’s offer in Geneva is a far cry from what Cottler summed up in his op-ed.

The question is why in light of the real meaning of the Iranian offer in Geneva the US and EU hailed the talks as ‘a new beginning’ ?

Israeli commentators think they have the answer.

The US and EU have in fact changed their game in order to trap Israel into inaction, they say. Israel cannot take military action against Iran’s nuclear program as long as talks in Geneva continue.  They say the West fears an Israeli strike more than an Iranian nuclear weapon since such a strike would have a disastrous affect on the price of oil and on the world economy.

So Israel has finally arrived at the moment that was predicted by Ehud Barak a long time ago. “Ultimately we will stand alone”,  Barak predicted at the time.

From the developments around the Syrian chemical weapons crisis and the eagerness to engage Iran once more, it has become clear that the West will not use military force in order to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

The question is now, will the prime minister of Israel follow up on his repeated declarations that Israel will not allow Iran to aquire nuclear weapons even if it has to act alone ?

Update

We received new information about what happened in Iran during Rouhani’s charm offensive in New York and during the talks in Geneva last week.

During Rouhani’s visit to the UN General Assembly 30 Iranians were executed without due process of law.

Iran’s real leader Ayatollah Khamenei held a speech in honor of this year’s Hajj which was published on his official website.

Quote:

Arrogant governments, headed by the USA, conceal their true character with the help of comprehensive and advanced propaganda tools. By claiming that they support human rights and democracy, they deceive public opinion in different countries. They speak about the rights of all nations while each day Muslim nations feel- with their bodies and souls- the fire of discord more than the past.

The Israel Project  and David Gerstman  contributed to this report