Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Time Has Come

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Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA)

If its domestic situation were not so serious, Iran's government could bevery happy indeed. Iran managed to gain another crucial year in its questfor a nuclear weapons capability, and every passing day brings it closer toits ultimate goal: having the potential to produce deliverable nuclearweapons in short order, if it so decides. It successfully delayed the Westfrom pursuing a more severe sanctions regime, and the West is behaving as ifit has all the time in the world. It does not.How did this come about? Several factors combined to achieve the net result,most of them not of Iran's doing: the election of a new US president whobelieved in engagement as the sole way to resolve conflicts (and may stillwant to believe this); the unwillingness, for years, of the IAEA toacknowledge Iran's ultimate goal; the (unclassified) 2007 US NationalIntelligence Estimate (NIE) that raised the possibility that Iran abandonedits quest for nuclear weapons; the reluctance of the US to assume the leadrole in confronting Iran, and letting the EU-3 deal, albeit ineffectively,with the situation; the contrary attitude of Russia and China, which arewatching the West struggle to find a solution while throwing it a bone fromtime to time in supporting some sanctions resolutions that are not achievingtheir aim; and the exceptional spanner in the works embedded in the quiteunproductive suggestion to transfer some of Iran's low enriched uranium(LEU) outside the country and return it as medium enriched uranium fuel forits Tehran Research Reactor. This last statement needs some explanation.On October 1, 2009, the P5 +1 (the five permanent Security Council membersplus Germany) and Iran began talks in Geneva that were supposed to deal witha host of issues, including the suspension of Iran's uranium enrichmentactivities.

Meantime, the US proposed the said uranium transfer idea. Therationale was, apparently, to remove the major portion of the LEU from Iran,thus delaying Iran's potential to produce the core of its first nuclearexplosive device. The talks were then postponed for more than a month, theIAEA produced a text of an agreement accepted by the Russian, US, andIranian delegations, and the Iranians went home to obtain the approval ofthe agreement by their government. The government probably never had anyintention of approving this. The deadline for an Iranian reply came and wentand nothing happened. Meanwhile, Iran continued to enrich uranium.Evaluating the proposal objectively, little would have been achieved, evenif the Iranians had agreed to it. The LEU stockpile would have been reduced,and its quantity would be below what is needed for a complete nuclear weaponcore, but this would remain so for a short time only, since enrichment wouldcontinue. Thus, the uranium transfer proposal bought precious time for theIranians, and no uranium enrichment suspension was even discussed.Meanwhile, the end of the 2009 deadline set by the US for resolving theIranian nuclear issue also came and went, and nothing happened. The Iraniansare enriching, the US is hesitating, and the East seems to be quite happywith the situation. The US year's end deadline proved to be devoid ofsubstance. The US administration apparently had no fallback plan to dealwith such a situation, and if it had, it did not execute it. Although Iranformally rejected the above plan, the IAEA director general was quoted assaying that the plan was still on the table. One wonders what this wouldachieve if it were now accepted by the Iranians, except for a further delayof a comprehensive solution to the issue and a continuing enrichment ofuranium by Iran. (Read more...)