Hassan Rouhani 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Fars News)
Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani is clearly determined to get economic and
financial sanctions on Iran lifted. To that end, he obviously must conduct
dialogue with the P5+1 world powers, especially with the US; as such, he has –
not surprisingly – put out concrete feelers in this direction.
US perspective, Iran must take clear steps toward resolving international
concerns about the military direction of its nuclear program, and the assumption
seems to be that if Rouhani wants to talk, he understands what this will
The problem is that Rouhani has said nothing so far to indicate
that he has any intention to reverse course in the nuclear realm. Quite the
contrary: He has said Tehran will not even discuss uranium-enrichment
The International Atomic Energy Agency report of late August
underscores that Iran is on track in the nuclear realm, with the worrying
information that some 1,000 newgeneration centrifuges have been installed at
Natanz and are ready to be tested. These centrifuges spin much faster, and thus
have a much greater enrichment efficiency and are more durable than the previous
generation – and will greatly improve Iran’s ability to move quickly to nuclear
breakout, should it so decide.
Rouhani has said that Iran never pursued
or sought a nuclear bomb, and will not be doing so, but this stands in stark
contradiction to IAEA reports on Iran and US intelligence assessments on past
activities. The supreme leader of Iran has been hailed for calling for
flexibility in dealing with the international community, but his full sentence
was that Iran may exercise flexibility for a tactical reason, while not losing
sight of its rival and goal.
This is completely in-line with Iran’s
approach toward the international community over the past decade; it has
displayed impressive acumen at playing a tactical game in nuclear negotiations,
while using the time to steadily progress toward its goal.
most likely repeat his conciliatory messages at the UN General Assembly this
week, but the first real test of Iran’s nuclear intentions comes on September
27, when a longdelayed meeting with the IAEA is scheduled to take place.
Although Tehran’s incessant refrain in almost all Iranian media commentary is
that the country has cleared up all of the outstanding inquiries with the IAEA,
this is hardly the case.
In fact, the IAEA has a long list of requests it
has made of Iran, which include: the application of the Additional Protocol that
Iran signed long ago, but did not ratify; responses to the list of
military-related aspects of the nuclear program; and updating the Design
Information Questionnaire related to the construction of the IR-40 natural
uranium reactor at Arak – which has the potential to produce plutonium, a
fissile material suitable for the production of nuclear weapons.
will also insist on an inspection visit to Parchin, a site suspected of hosting
a facility for the development of the weaponization aspects of nuclear weapons,
even if it is quite certain that the inspectors will find nothing incriminating
there, due to the lengthy cleanup operations carried out by Iran. But this is
only a beginning.
In the next round of negotiations, Iran’s potential for
nuclear breakout – namely, the ability to produce a nuclear weapon so quickly
that the world will find out about it only after it becomes a fait accompli –
must be on the table. Stopping activities at Fordow, discontinuing enrichment to
20 percent and removing stockpiles from the country are a first
Equally important are dealing with stocks of low-enriched uranium
and creating mechanisms to closely monitor and inspect all of Iran’s nuclear
activities, including the plutonium route.
These actions have to be
accompanied by Iranian transparency regarding its past activities, with special
emphasis on the military dimensions – studies and developments of both
weaponization and nuclear warheads, partial evidence of which has already been
uncovered and presented.
As for Iran’s “inalienable right” to enrich
uranium according to the Non- Proliferation Treaty, this was negated after Iran
was found by the IAEA and the UN Security Council to be in noncompliance of its
Tehran could regain this right if it begins to unwind
its enrichment program and stops construction of its Arak reactor. It could go
on producing electricity from its power reactor at Bushehr, and it could
purchase all the isotopes it needs on the free world market. The nuclear fuel
for its power reactor could easily be supplied by Russia. This could be a
blueprint for a quick and lasting solution to the Iran nuclear issue, including
the removal of sanctions. Would Iran do this? According to Iran’s past record,
the chance of this is currently not high.
Iran has concealed, lied and
acted in contravention of its obligations.
Moreover, while the pressure
of sanctions is pushing Iran to talk to the US, there is no indication this has
been enough for Iran to consider backing down from its nuclear goal.
is not enough for Rohani to act according to Lewis Carroll’s immortal lines: “I
have said it twice: That alone should encourage the crew… I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”
In this case, words are not enough
– it is the deeds that will count. And the deeds must come quickly enough, or
the world will know that Iran has been using the time-buying tactic all over
again.Dr. Ephraim Asculai is a senior research fellow at the Institute
for National Security Studies, having joined it following more than 40 years of
service at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.
Dr. Emily B. Landau is
director of the Arms Control and Regional Security program at INSS and author of
Decade of Diplomacy: Negotiations with Iran and North Korea and the Future of