UPDATES

It’s not too late for a safer nuclear deal with Iran

Apr 16, 2015 | Ahron Shapiro

It's not too late for a safer nuclear deal with Iran
news_item/iran-nuclear-program.jpg

If the recent Iranian nuclear framework deal progresses into an actual signed agreement, it would legitimise Iran as a nuclear weapons threshold state by allowing it to maintain a vast nuclear infrastructure.

The finer points of the deal that remain to be finalised by 30 June are more or less the mechanisms upon which the world would rely to try prevent Iran from weaponising their nuclear material if they so choose-try being the operative word.

Like the ill-fated case of North Korea, this plan depends heavily on inspections. There is little reason to believe it would be more effective this time around.

This was not the kind of deal that US President Barack Obama said would be safe and acceptable in the past. Why is it somehow safe and acceptable now?

The inescapable fact is that President Obama has repeatedly rolled back his requirements for nuclear safeguards on Iran. He has done so for no apparent reason other than that Iran objected to them, and he was determined to get a deal.

In the third 2012 Presidential Debate, President Obama was unequivocal:

“Our goal is to get Iran to recognize it needs to give up its nuclear program and abide by the UN resolutions [against Iran’s illegal nuclear program] that have been in place,” he said, adding that “we hope that their leadership takes the right decision, but the deal we’ll accept is they end their nuclear program.”

However, in an interim agreement with Iran, signed in Geneva in November 2013, the US conceded a nuclear program to Iran-provided it only retained the elements required for civilian and peaceful applications.

At the Saban Forum in Washington the following month, Obama volunteered three unacceptable aspects of Iran’s nuclear program that he would target in a final agreement:

“In terms of specifics, we know that they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.”

Now, with the Lausanne agreement, keeping Iran’s enrichment consistent with a civilian nuclear program is passé. The stated goal has now become keeping Iran a year away from building a bomb, for a period of 10 years (according to Iran) or 15 years (according to the US).

The only real benchmark that appears to have been used for estimating Iran’s breakout time to a bomb would be the time it would take for Iran’s centrifuges to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels-a formula based on the idea that Iran will keep a set number of known centrifuges running and thousands of others under a temporary seal, though it would not be required to dismantle any of them.

Moreover, it assumed Iran will not utilise its newly developed IR-8 centrifuges, which are up to 20 times more efficient than the IR-1 models it primarily uses for enrichment today.

According to all versions of the framework agreement, Iran would not have to close any nuclear facility, including Fordo and Arak, and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif insists the framework would permit Iran to operate its high-speed centrifuges from the first day the signed deal becomes effective.

This is the deal Iran wanted.

Iran was never willing to discuss its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose sole effective purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads. Nor was Iran willing to negotiate its support for Hezbollah or Hamas, or willing to consider recognising Israel or even to simply stop threatening its annihilation.

Iran’s leaders weren’t willing to negotiate over these issues, and the US didn’t press them to.

Iran has failed to fully comply with every nuclear deal it has agreed to in the past-including the interim deal currently in place. But even if Iran was to adhere to the kind of deal suggested by the Lausanne framework, what would happen after the agreement ends?

What happens if they don’t keep to the deal? President Obama speaks of sanctions that ‘snap back’ into place. This is fanciful – given the complex nature of global economics – and misunderstands the nature of sanctions, which require a long time to have any effect.

As for verification and inspections, there’s no indication that Iran will be willing to give inspectors unfettered ‘anytime, anywhere’ access, nor would any deal be capable of regulating secret nuclear facilities that Iran might choose to construct, as it has in the past.

Moreover, the Lausanne framework ignores the disastrous effect that having Iran legitimised as a nuclear weapon threshold state will have on a Middle East already in turmoil.

Ending Iran’s nuclear program-Obama’s original goal-however challenging, would unquestionably have solved the Iranian nuclear problem. Restricting Iran’s nuclear program to civilian capabilities would have been risky, but arguably manageable.

With the adaptation of the dangerous Lausanne parameters, however, the Obama administration has gambled global security on the mere hope that Iran can be prevented from weaponising in the future, even against its best efforts.

With a signed deal months away at best, and Tehran still very vulnerable to sanctions, it’s not too late to re-open the debate and find a less dangerous alternative that we all can live with.

Ahron Shapiro

This article has also appeared on the ASPI Strategist blog.

Tags:

RELATED ARTICLES


(Photo: Shutterstock)

The politics of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Nov 22, 2022 | Update
Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran's most famous actresses, appearing publicly without her headscarf and holding a sign with the Kurdish words for "Women, Life, Freedom". Despite the regime's bloody repression, Alidoosti has vowed to remain in her homeland "at any price" and support the families of those killed or arrested in the protest crackdown  (Photo: Instagram)

Iran’s protest wave continues 

Nov 11, 2022 | Update
8c2ebfa2 C3e1 A33a 9cdc 07bd16e00b2f

After election win, Netanyahu set to be Israeli PM again

Nov 4, 2022 | Update
Israelis are going to the polls yet again on Nov. 1, the fifth Israeli election in less than four years. Will this vote break the political deadlock? (Image: Flickr, IDF)

Israel goes to the polls – again

Oct 28, 2022 | Update
The complex Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary dispute appears to have been settled after many years of negotiations, with Israel accepting the green line in the above diagram, except within five kilometres of the coast (This map was originally published on the MEES website).

Israel-Lebanon maritime border agreement

Oct 13, 2022 | Update
A screenshot from a video posted on Sept. 17 shows an injured protester in Saqqez, Iran, being rushed to a medical facility. (Video: Twitter)

Insights into Iran’s protest movement

Oct 7, 2022 | Update

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

Left to Right: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

The Russo-Iranian alliance comes to Europe

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi (source: Dean_Calma)

UN nuclear watchdog head’s shocking statement on Iran

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The World Cup and Qatar’s Hypocrisy

Image: Twitter

New Government will confront terror wave 

Anti-Zionism is no longer being ignored in New Zealand (Image: Alamy Stock photo)

AIR New Zealand: Disinformation report prompts anti-Zionism debate

Left to Right: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

The Russo-Iranian alliance comes to Europe

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi (source: Dean_Calma)

UN nuclear watchdog head’s shocking statement on Iran

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The World Cup and Qatar’s Hypocrisy

Image: Twitter

New Government will confront terror wave 

Anti-Zionism is no longer being ignored in New Zealand (Image: Alamy Stock photo)

AIR New Zealand: Disinformation report prompts anti-Zionism debate

SORT BY TOPICS