The Iran glass is still totally empty

By EPHRAIM ASCULAI
October 23, 2013 21:35

Again, as has happened so many times before, the never-ending story is to be continued.

3 minute read.



Iranian delegation meets representatives of world powers in Geneva nuclear talks, October 15, 2013

Iranian nuclear talks 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

In a sort of phantasmagoric way, we watch a repeat performance of negotiations with Iran, seeing but not really believing. Again, a meeting that has been “constructive,” but this time punctuated with smiles, and laced with the use of English, which melts our hearts.

Moreover, the PowerPoint presentation was much shorter, and hints that unannounced inspection visits were on the agenda were dropped.

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Big deal. And again, as has happened so many times before, the never-ending story is to be continued.

It is the same show, but with different actors, props and music. The script, however, doesn’t change.

Sorry for the cynicism, but the Iran glass is not even half full. It is still completely empty, and time is really running out.

The plain fact is that Iran is again dragging its feet and ingeniously buying time for its nuclear project.

Take, for example, the talks between the IAEA and Iran that took place on September 27, 2013. It was a good chance for Iran to demonstrate that it was going to mend its ways, and suggest even a minor goodwill gesture. Nada.

Iran probably thought that giving in to anything would be a sign of weakness, and that goes against the grain of Iranians. Little international notice was taken of this episode.

Why sour the atmosphere when the “charm offensive” is in full swing? Some, if not all, the information will be leaked to the media in the near future. In the meanwhile, we have to do with those crumbs of information that come our way. The one thing repeated by many participants and other officials is that Iran has to prove to the world that its nuclear program is devoted exclusively to “peaceful uses.”

This is a kind of Mission Impossible.

Without coming clean about the past, how can Iran possibly prove this? Iran does not even deign to give proper answers to what was called the “few remaining questions,” but insists that the documents on which these questions are based were fakes, and the answers given, anyhow.

With such answers, the future looks dim.

Iran will have shown goodwill in that it agrees to some sort of strengthened international inspection regime that will assure the world that all enriched uranium will be put to good, peaceful uses. Some additional gestures probably also have been made, such as agreeing to stop the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent.

Iran’s big gain, aside from the removal of some sanctions (which are an essential condition for any agreement), will be the recognition of its “inalienable” right to enrich uranium. No matter what the details of any agreement are, Iran will thus retain the potential to break out and enrich uranium to military-grade levels.

It will be able to do so because the better centrifuges it will be using will have a better enrichment capacity, because the military aspects of Iran’s program will not be under any outside scrutiny, most of all because Iran is not going to come clean about its military nuclear program.

The IAEA, which is doing a magnificent job under severe limitations, is an inspection and verification organization. It has eyes, but no powers other than reporting to headquarters what is observes. It is not a police force. It cannot prevent any activities on the part of Iran. It is also limited in its ability to penetrate and report on the military aspects of the Iranian nuclear program.

And most of all, it cannot search for undeclared facilities, activities and materials. Iran is a huge country.

It can hide an immense nuclear program.

Its past president said that it would do so. And if it hasn’t already done so, it will do so soon, unless prevented by a strict inspection regime and swift international action.

So, unless Iran stops enrichment, unless a strict inspection regime is put in place, unless work on the IR- 40 reactor is completely stopped, and unless the military aspects of the project are disclosed and abandoned, one can be sure that Iran will have the capability to produce nuclear weapons almost at will. And it will do so if it feels that the whole program is being compromised, and all those billions are going down the drain, alongside Iran’s dignity.

The author is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv.


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