Despite an optimistic spin to last week’s negotiations in Baghdad between P5+1 negotiators and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, as more details of those negotiations emerge, it is becoming more clear that Iran continues to flout both UN Security Council resolutions and Western demands. As negotiations proceed, Teheran appears to be in fact expanding its nuclear plans, instead of a curtailing them.
On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Iran’s nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi has essentially toyed with negotiators, hinting at a willingness to make concessions on Uranium enrichment to 20%, a key element of Western offers for an agreement with Teheran, only to reverse himself.
Before the meeting in Baghdad, Mr. Abbasi had hinted that Iran was ready to compromise on its program of enriching uranium up to 20 percent with the isotope capable of sustaining nuclear fission, which it says it needs to fuel an aging United States-designed medical reactor.
However, on Sunday, the official took it back.
“[Abbasi] said there would be no suspension of enrichment by Iran, the central requirement of several United Nations Security Council resolutions. He specifically said that applied to uranium being enriched to 20 percent purity – a steppingstone that puts it in fairly easy reach of producing highly enriched uranium that can be used for nuclear weapons.
The New York Times also noted that Iran had amassed enough medical grade uranium to supply its needs for two decades, but refuses to consider cutting back on enrichment. It has also announced plans to build more nuclear reactors.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) asked Iran for an explanation for a worrying test result which appeared to indicate Iran may now be enriching Uranium above the 20% level for the first time. The agency asked why radioactive traces enriched at 27 percent were detected at the Iranian underground bunker at Fordo – far above the 20 percent enriched uranium Iran has been claiming to be producing for peaceful purposes.
While the higher levels of radiation could be a smoking gun for a nuclear weapons program, analysts are scrambling for another explanation – such as that the particles were enriched higher by mistake.
At the same time, Iran continues to refuse to allow IAEA inspectors access to its Parchin nuclear site, something it was strongly implied it was willing to do in talks with IAEA head Yukio Amano hailed as a breakthrough two weeks ago.
And, it now has enough nuclear material to build five nuclear bombs if it desired according to the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), much more than most previous estimates.
The response to the most recent failed round of negotiations, and Iran’s obvious thumbing its nose at the international community by the editorial writers at the Financial Times? First, don’t call it a setback. Secondly, since there is, in their view, plenty of time left to negotiate, the number one priority in the short term must be to prevent Israel from bombing Iranian nuclear sites. Third and finally, they urge negotiators to be “flexible” and be prepared to “peel away” sanctions should Iran agree to concessions, even far short of the negotiators’ key demands.
In contrast, at the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens says the West has been giving Iran too much wiggle room in the nuclear talks, and hasn’t learned from the slippery ways the Islamic Republic has handled negotiations dating back to the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis.
Give the late ayatollah his due: He had the courage of his convictions-and he had the West’s number. So does his regime. The Islamic Republic has insisted all along that nuclear enrichment is its right. It has consistently responded to threats and sanctions by expanding its nuclear program, bearing the economic sacrifice while forcing the West to bargain for less and less. Yes, the regime is almost certainly lying when it says it has no interest in nuclear weapons. But since when have nations laid bare their secrets or revealed their intentions to the enemy?