Negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program are set to resume this week in Geneva
between the P5+1 countries (USA, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) and the
new Iranian leadership – arguably the most important diplomatic encounter in a
This new round of talks takes place against the backdrop of
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive – including the nuclear file
– where he spoke of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear energy for “peaceful purposes
only,” while Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has spoken of “heroic flexibility
in the nuclear talks.” Yet this soothing rhetoric is otherwise contradicted by
the Iranian insistence on its “inalienable right to enrich,” and its
just announced negotiating “red line” excluding the export of highly enriched
uranium from Iran.
US President Barack Obama, after welcoming the Iranian
leadership’s conciliatory words, added that “the test will be meaningful,
transparent and verifiable actions.”
Such skepticism is eminently
warranted, given the track record and 3- D negotiating strategy of the Iranian
regime – denial, deception and delay – and that of the supposedly moderate
President Hassan Rouhani himself.
Indeed, as Iran’s chief nuclear
negotiator with several European countries in 2004, Rouhani admitted that,
“while we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing
equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan.... In fact, by creating a calm
environment, we were able to complete the work on Isfahan,” a position Rouhani
affirmed on Iranian TV during the presidential election.
a new round of negotiations is to effectively roll back the Iranian nuclear
threat – rather than create another “calm environment” enabling increased
nuclear activity – there are a series of specific undertakings that Iran must be
called upon to carry out verifiably.
These undertakings are as follows: •
1. Iran must abide by, and fully implement, its obligations under Security
Council resolutions and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
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
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
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
Otherwise, Iranian enrichment at Fordow will enter a zone of
impenetrability rendering it closed to inspection and immune to any military
• 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
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.
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
Negotiations with Iran should do the same. While the
regime’s recent release of certain political prisoners is a welcome development,
it is imperative that the international community test Rouhani’s intentions in
this regard. It is not enough to free individual prisoners; it must presage, as
Rouhani intoned, a “free Iran.”
Given the Iranian track record of using
negotiations as a delay tactic while uranium continues to be enriched and the
centrifuges continue to spin, only Iran’s verifiable abandonment of its nuclear
weapons pursuits – based on the above undertakings – should result in the easing
of international sanctions.
Negotiations must not serve as cover for
denial, deception, and delay; rather, they must lead to full Iranian compliance
with the regime’s international obligations, an outcome that would greatly
advance the cause of international peace and security, and that would greatly
benefit the Iranian people themselves.
The author is a member of the
Canadian Parliament, emeritus professor of law (McGill University) and the
former justice minister and attorney-general of Canada. He is co-chairman with
Sen. Mark Kirk of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran
and a member of the Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.