One of the dramatic developments that could surface as a result of the nuclear deal achieved this week in Vienna is the question of what will happen to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Fakhrizadeh is a key nuclear scientist, a senior officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and a loyal disciple of the regime. If Iran ever produces nuclear weapons, he would be worshiped in the country as the father of the Shi’ite bomb.
He was in charge of “weaponization” – the group of Iranian nuclear scientists who studied how to produce nuclear weapons and to reduce them in size to attach as missile warheads. He was also, according to foreign reports, No. 1 on the Mossad wanted list in its campaign to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists. Fearing for his life, he went underground.
The International Atomic Energy Agency also wanted him for questioning, hoping to have a better understanding of how Iran had planned to be a nuclear threshold state. But the Islamic Republic, as part of its efforts to lie, cheat and deceive, refused to allow access to him.
Now, according to the agreement, Iran is obligated to allow IAEA experts to talk to him. Unless, of course, Iran says that he is no longer alive.
Like beauty, the merits of the agreement reached between the six powers and Iran are in the eye of the beholder. Nothing in the more than 150 pages, including appendixes, of the agreement – even the unexpected and surprising parts – will convince the unconvinced or change their minds.
Long ago, the debate about the quality of what was achieved in Vienna turned into a biased ideological confrontation.
And yet, despite the hurdles, the details enable the world to unveil the masquerade of all the involved parties, including Israel, and to peel away the slogans and mantras.
Unlike claims by Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the agreement does not bring Iran closer to a bomb. On the contrary – it distances it.
The agreement is surprising, because almost every aspect of it worsens Iran’s nuclear program from its current status.
Its centrifuges will be reduced to a total of 6,000, all of them of the old generation dating back to the 1960s. It prohibits Iran from installing newer, more advanced machines that can spin out uranium faster.
True, the deeply fortified uranium enrichment site in Fordow would not be shut down, as US President Barack Obama hinted it would, but the number of its centrifuges would be reduced to 1,000 and no uranium enrichment activity will be allowed.
The agreement also prevents Iran from enriching uranium to a level higher than 3.67 percent, which can be used only as nuclear fuel for reactors generating energy.
Its uranium inventory would dwindle from 10 tons, which would have enabled it to build 10 nuclear bombs, to 300 kilograms.
Iran’s dream to produce plutonium will vanish, because the heavy-water nuclear reactor it is building near Arak will be redesigned into a light-water facility and, thus, won’t be able to produce plutonium as fissile material for a bomb. Iran will also be prohibited from building further heavy-water reactors for 15 years.
All of these restrictions are pushing the Islamic Republic back by one year over a period of 10 years, from having the capability to break out and produce a bomb. It is important to understand that before the negotiations started two years ago, Iran was within a three-month reach of having a nuclear weapon.
To verify that Iran will indeed honor its commitments, the international inspection will be tighter than it is now. IAEA inspectors will go and examine the military site in Parchin, to which they have so far been denied access. Iran is obligated to provide all of the information regarding its activities within the “military dimension,” including access to any suspected sites, whether civilian or military, and permit the questioning of every scientist involved – Fakhrizadeh above all.
Only when IAEA inspections grant Iran a “kosher certificate” that it is following all of its commitments will sanctions gradually be lifted – a process that will last at least six months.
If the IAEA finds that Iran cannot kick the habit of cheating, it will report to an arbitration board comprising representatives from the six powers and Iran, and from there a 65-day process will begin, ending in the UN Security Council. The Security Council will then decide by majority, without veto powers, whether to restore the sanctions.
It is worth noting that, despite Israeli concerns, a separate set of embargoes on the export of conventional weapons to Iran will gradually be lifted only after five years, and the supply of know-how, technology, and components for missiles will resume only after eight years.
Even though it is not a perfect deal, it is important to understand the broader strategy behind it. The West, led by the US, wants to bring Iran back into the international community. The West has its own economic interests.
It perceives Iran as a partner in the war against Islamic State, while hoping that all of these future agreements moderate the radical nature of the regime. The deal is also intended to reduce the likelihood of a Middle East nuclear arms race, had Iran not been curbed.
Yet this doesn’t mean that Obama is not facing a fierce battle in Congress.