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Friday, October 23, 2009

The price of a nuclear deal with Iran

At Foreign Policy, Michael Singh talks about the price of the deal currently being discussed by the P -5+1 with Iran to have Iran send low enriched uranium to Russia and France to have it enriched for medical use.
Like all purchases of information, however, this one comes at a cost. The P5+1 have had to accept the uranium enrichment which Iran has conducted in recent years in defiance of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. Even if it ultimately does not reach a deal to send its LEU abroad, Iran will surely seek to pocket this concession and declare a measure of victory. Similarly, by presenting the admission of IAEA inspectors to the until-recently-covert Qom enrichment plant as a concession, Iran gains tacit international acceptance of a facility built in defiance of its Nonproliferation Treaty obligations. If the P5+1 accepts this fait accompli and negotiates to limit rather than eliminate uranium enrichment in Iran and to monitor rather than shut down the Qom facility, the result could be a dangerous one for the stability of the Middle East and the viability of the global nonproliferation regime.

Another cost of the current U.S. initiative is that it risks demoralizing Iran's ascendant political opposition by bolstering the regime at a time when its legitimacy at home appears to be waning. Given that an internal transformation in Iran may be the best hope for long-run peace and stability in the region, any action that risks delaying it could be costly indeed. None of this is to say that the current approach should not be tried, given the paucity of attractive options; it is simply to say that it is not free. At some point the purchases of information must end, and a decision must be taken. A pharmaceutical company that conducts many clinical trials but sells no drugs eventually finds itself out of business.
Here in Israel, there is discontent with the deal currently being discussed in Vienna.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak broke Israel's official silence on a draft plan to ship one load of Iranian uranium abroad for enrichment, saying Thursday night there was a need to halt all uranium enrichment on Iranian soil.

"This agreement, if it is signed, will set Iran's accumulation of enriched material back by about a year," Barak said during a speech at President Shimon Peres's Israeli Presidential Conference at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.

"However, if they don't stop enrichment, then the only result will be that Iran has gained the legitimacy to enrich uranium on its soil for civilian purposes, in clear opposition to the interlocutors' and our understanding that their true plan is to attain [military] nuclear capability," he said.

"So, I repeat, what is required is a halt to enrichment in Iran, not just an export of the enriched material to build fuel rods," the defense minister said.
It's actually worse than that. The deal sets Iran back by a year on the presumption that the low enriched uranium that they are sending abroad - which is about 80% of what they are known to possess - is in fact 80% of what they have. But they could have other low (or even high) enriched uranium that is unknown to the IAEA 'international community.' (I struck the IAEA because so long as ElBaradei is in charge, I don't believe it would necessarily tell anyone if Iran has undisclosed uranium stockpiles).

Herb Keinon of the JPost adds:
Barak's comments reflect the belief that the plan does not address the three fundamental issues that have been enshrined in various UN Security Council resolutions on Iran: that all Iranian enrichment activity be suspended until confidence is restored that the nuclear program is for civilian purposes only; that there be increased verification from the IAEA supervisors; and that there be transparency, meaning questions and explanations to a wide array of outstanding questions posed by the IAEA.
Read the whole thing.

What could go wrong?


At 11:54 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Iranians could be in full compliance with a deal until they announced one day they had a bomb - like the North Koreans did. And they would be doing it legally. Israel cannot allow itself to bed inhibited from stopping Iran's acquisition of a bomb regardless of what deal Iran might reach with the West. Iran's word is simply not good enough to ensure it won't get it at all.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The iron test of course will be whether Iran agrees to stop enrichment at home. I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

What could go wrong indeed

At 4:47 AM, Blogger MyAmerica said...

Please read my response "The hideous cost of hypocrisy & nuclear warheads" to "The hidden costs of the nuke deal with Iran" by Michael Singh, in the same issue of Foreign Policy:

I have suggested a solution to the problem "Iran should show Compliance with IAEA requirement":

President Harry Truman in 1946 gave this statement about nuclear bomb:

" It is a terrible weapon, and it should not be used on innocent men, women and children who have nothing whatever to do with this military aggression. That happens when it is used."
He was referring to using the bomb on Japan.

We all must support President Obama's quest for reducing the inventory of all nuclear warheads in the world.


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