- From The Tower: WaPo editorial: President Obama has retreated from previous positions on Iranian nukes
A group of experts criticized aspects of the understanding reached on Thursday between the P5+1 and Iran and expressed concerns about key issues that appear to not have been addressed.
Thomas Moore, a nonproliferation expert for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Business Insider that he noticed two red flags about the understanding: that it weakens Iran’s obligations under the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that it would permit Iran to engage in nuclear activities that have no civilian application. Armin Rosen, the author of the article, pointed out that a White House factsheet put out about the understanding does not indicate the timeframe during which Iran would have to implement the Additional Protocol or whether Iran will have to ratify it. The European Union/Iran statement, however, does say that Iran will be expected to undertake a “provisional application of the Additional Protocol” (emphasis ours). Rosen continues, "‘Provisional’ falls somewhat short of ‘full.’ It's a word that doesn't appear in the White House's fact sheet. And observers can't be sure of just how short of ‘full’ it falls until a final agreement is signed, or until the text of Thursday's agreement becomes public.” The Additional Protocol allows for short-notice and greater-access inspections of nuclear sites, declared and undeclared. Iran will continue to operate over 5,000 centrifuges and be able to maintain a "substantial stock" of uranium “enriched to 3.5% or lower that has no actual civilian application.”
Michael Crowley of Politico wrote that there are “gray areas” in the understanding, specifically on the issues of the parameters of research and development on advanced centrifuges; the fate of Iran’s uranium stockpile (the White House factsheet says Iran will “reduce” the stockpile to 300 kilograms from over 10 tons, but not how); and past Iranian research on nuclear weapons. Dennis Ross, formerly in charge of the Iran portfolio at the White House, wrote that the deal hinges on verification and that “the Iranians will resist the scope of the verification that the Obama administration will need in a final deal.” Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute asserted that “this agreement will signal the death knell of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director-general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, contended that the deal contemplated by the understanding would have the effect of “affirming Iran’s status as a nuclear-threshold state.” Iran’s breakout time (the time needed to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon) would be reduced because “Iran will…continue research and development on more advanced centrifuges,” which enrich uranium at a faster clip. Heinonen has previously argued, along with former Director of both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, and Ray Takeyh, a former advisor on Iranian affairs in the Obama administration’s State Department, that a one-year breakout time would not be sufficient for the international community to react and to impose economic sanctions if Iran were in noncompliance with an agreement.
Takeyh wrote that the “differing interpretations [of the U.S. and Iran of the understanding] are worrisome,” including an apparent discrepancy over the scheduling of the lifting of sanctions. Takeyh continued, “The previous military dimensions of the program are neglected while ballistic missiles are ignored altogether.” Without full disclosure from Iran on the possible military dimensions of its program, it would not be possible to know the extent to which Iran had shut down its uranium mines, reduced its uranium stockpiles, and stopped centrifuges from spinning; in other words, verification, a central plank of the Obama administration’s argument for a deal, would be impossible.
Noting that President Barack Obama’s stated goals for an acceptable nuclear deal with Iran in 2012 would see Tehran “‘[…] end their nuclear program’ and ‘abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place,'” an unsigned staff editorial published today in The Washington Post laments that the president has retreated “a long way” from these positions.
The “key parameters” for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.
The editorial also observes that the sanctions relief that would follow an agreement would allow Iran “to wage more aggressively the wars it is already fighting or sponsoring across the region.”