Earlier this week, The Associate Press reported that a final nuclear deal with Iran would allow it to enrich uranium with 6,000 centrifuges and some sanctions would be immediately suspended.
The AP also said there would be a partial lift of a U.N. embargo on conventional arms and the under-construction Arak heavy-water reactor would be re-engineered to produce less plutonium.
The New York Times reported yesterday that in exchange for being allowed to keep its large nuclear infrastructure, Iran would be required to take some offsetting steps, like shipping a large portion of its stockpile of uranium to Russia. The Times added that “the idea of making the centrifuges less efficient by removing some piping that connects them appears to have been dropped, some diplomats say.”
These leaks confirm earlier reports of what the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration is seeking with Iran will look like. Allowing Iran to do any uranium enrichment increases the risk from Iran’s nuclear program since it would allow Tehran to continue to perfect its enrichment technology.
Since Iran has shown no willingness to send its enriched uranium stockpile out of the country, operating 6,000 centrifuges would be more than enough for Tehran to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel from its reactor-grade enriched uranium stockpile in 3.5 months or less. (See chart.)
Allowing Iran to do any uranium enrichment is a bad idea for several reasons. First, Iran’s centrifuge program has nothing to do with producing fuel for its Bushehr power reactor since that would require 200,000 centrifuges. Iran does, however, have more than enough centrifuges to make weapons-grade nuclear fuel. This is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Iran’s uranium centrifuge has only one purpose: making nuclear bombs.
It is worth noting that due to the severe proliferation risk that uranium enrichment poses, the United States did not agree to allow the U.A.E. to enrich uranium in a 2009 “123 agreement” on peaceful nuclear cooperation.
Given the enormous expense of developing a uranium enrichment capability and the fact that it is much cheaper to purchase reactor fuel rods from countries like Russia, France, and the Netherlands, allowing Iran to enrich uranium makes no sense in an agreement that is supposed to slow or halt its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Such an agreement would also set a bad precedent since Iran constructed its centrifuges in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Despite the new reports of concessions to Iran, the nuclear talks reportedly have deadlocked because of objections from Iran and France.
Iranian officials reportedly are balking at Western demands to restrict its development and use of advanced centrifuges. Tehran wants to install centrifuge models that are five times or more efficient. It also has proposed storing, not destroying, advanced centrifuges and phasing them in after five years. Western states reportedly are resisting these proposals.
There also is disagreement over a ”sunset clause” on how long the nuclear agreement will last. The Obama administration reportedly wants the agreement to last 10 years. According to The New York Times, France wants the agreement to last 15 years and then be followed by 10 years of stringent monitoring measures.
Iran also wants most sanctions to be lifted soon after a nuclear deal is agreed to. Western diplomats reportedly have vetoed this idea, saying that the lifting of sanctions is likely to take years, not weeks or months. Iranian officials reportedly have said this issue is a "deal breaker.”
The good news is that the reckless nuclear agreement which the Obama administration is seeking with Iran might be stopped because Iran is overreaching and one of our allies — France — has come to its senses about the nuclear talks and the dangers of a nuclear Iran.
It now looks possible that Iran and France may stop this disastrous deal.
Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, followed the Iranian nuclear program for the CIA, State Department, and House Intelligence Committee. He is senior vice president for policy and programs at the Center for Security Policy. Read more report from Fred Fleitz
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