The U.N. Security Council would be making a mistake if it moves forward with attempts to strike an agreement this week with Iran to end economic sanctions without demanding answers about whether the country has worked to develop nuclear weapons.
In a column for The Wall Street Journal,
David Albright, a former Iraq U.N. inspector, and Bruno Tertrais, senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, argue that a critical prerequisite for any final agreement must be for Iran to address the questions it has been evading by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency about its nuclear weapons development.
"Alarm bells should be going off in the West," the experts wrote. "If Iran is able to successfully evade questions about a weapons program now, when biting sanctions on oil exports and financial transactions are in place, why would it address them later when these sanctions are lifted? What use will an agreement be if Iran can hide a capacity to secretly build nuclear bombs?"
Albright and Tertrais wrote that it has been a mistake for the Security Council and Germany — known as P5+1 — to focus mostly on Tehran's uranium-enrichment and plutonium-production capabilities throughout its negotiations.
"To be credible, a final agreement must ensure that any effort by Tehran to construct a bomb would be sufficiently time-consuming and detectable that the international community could act decisively to prevent Iran from succeeding," they wrote.
"It is critical to know whether the Islamic Republic had a nuclear-weapons program in the past, how far the work on warheads advanced, and whether it continues. Without clear answers to these questions, outsiders will be unable to determine how fast the Iranian regime could construct either a crude nuclear-test device or a deliverable weapon if it chose to renege on an agreement."
Albright and Tertrais say that Iran has for decades resisted answering direct questions about its weapons program, and its recent offer to compile a "comprehensive document" of all of the country's nuclear work may simply be a stalling strategy to get sanctions lifted when the interim agreement from last year expires in July.
"To ensure that the Iranian regime doesn't benefit from running down the clock, the U.S. and its European allies should make clear that no agreement is possible unless Tehran addresses the IAEA's concerns. If Iran remains unwilling, the message should be crisp: no further sanctions relief. If non-cooperation continues, the P5+1 would be wise to start planning more crippling sanctions well before the official January 2015 deadline for a final agreement."
Albright and Tertrais also argued that assurances by the Iranian regime that it has never had nuclear-weapons aspirations go against all of the evidence compiled by the United States and its main European allies as recently as 2003.
They added that unless the inspectors are permitted the access it has been denied to Iran's military sites to accurately assess the country's claims, an agreement should not be on the table at this stage.
"Washington and the Europeans have arrived at a critical juncture. If the West fails to demand that Iran verifiably fess up to the military dimensions of its nuclear program, the odds are good that Ayatollah Khamenei would be able to build the bomb without fear of discovery," they wrote.
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