[Note – updated “below the fold”]
When American politicians talk about Iran’s nuclear program, one of the common features is a lack of realistic detail about what exactly it would take for that program not to be a problem any more. It’s all “Iran must stop enrichment” and “give up its nuclear ambitions”. But there’s no acknowledgement that the NPT allows Iran an enrichment program and the right to nuclear power. There’s no plan for getting from where we are to there other than to say “stop” louder and ratchet up both sanctions and talk of war. No wonder the Iranians think the real agenda is regime change – it probably is.
However, for those of us who’d rather see the problem solved peaceably, Hossein Mousavian today sets out a realistic path for normalization of the Iran nuclear file:
From 2003 to 2009, Iran exchanged many proposals with the EU3, and later the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany). Again unfortunately, none were realistic, largely because they did not provide face-saving mechanisms for either party. Going forward, any viable solution needs to meet the bottom lines of both sides. For Iran, this means the ability to produce reliable civilian nuclear energy, as it is entitled to do under the non-proliferation treaty. For the U.S. and Europe, it means never having Iran develop nuclear weapons or a short-notice breakout capability.
Specifically, the West should recognize the legitimate right of Iran to produce nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment; remove sanctions; and normalize Iran’s nuclear file at the UN Security Council and the IAEA. To meet the P5+1 conditions, Iran should accept the maximum level of transparency by implementing the IAEA’s Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1 and the non-proliferation treaty’s Additional Protocol, which broadly enable intrusive monitoring and inspections of nuclear facilities.
To eliminate Western concerns about a possible nuclear weapons breakout using low-enriched uranium, any deal should place a limit on Iran’s enrichment activities to less than 5 percent. Low-enriched uranium covers enrichment by as much as 20 percent, a level that is more conducive for further enrichment to weapons grade. A deal should also cap the amount of low- enriched uranium hexafluoride that Iran can stockpile; limit its enrichment sites during a period of confidence building; establish an international consortium on enrichment in Iran; and commit not to reprocess low-enriched uranium during the confidence-building period.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s offer to stop 20 percent enrichment in exchange for a P5+1 commitment to provide fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor — a proposal he made in comments to reporters last September after a speech to the UN General Assembly — and Russia’s ”œStep-by-Step Plan” represent the most conducive path to reaching such a deal. The Russian plan includes full supervision by the IAEA; implementation of the non-proliferation treaty’s Additional Protocol and Subsidiary Arrangement; readiness to stop production of low- enriched uranium and limiting enrichment to 5 percent; halting the production and installation of new centrifuges; limiting enrichment sites to one; addressing the IAEA’s ”œpossible military dimension” concerns and other technical ambiguities; and temporary suspension of enrichment.
In return, Iran would expect the P5+1 to remove sanctions and normalize Iran’s nuclear file in the IAEA and Security Council. Iran has already welcomed both initiatives. The U.S. and Europeans have declined. Instead, they have chosen to try coercion. The result was evidenced in recent days, as Iranian officials announced the insertion of their first domestically produced 20 percent fuel rod, and an increase in the number of enrichment centrifuges to 9,000 from 6,000.
Mousavian was formerly Iran’s nuclear negotiator and ambassador to Germany. He’s worth listening to. I wonder if anyone in the D.C. halls of power will do so?
Update Maybe they will.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and European Union expressed cautious optimism on Friday over prospects that Iran may be willing to engage major powers in new talks, but underscored any resumed negotiations must be sustained and focus on the nuclear issue.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters that Iran’s recent letter to Ashton might mark a step forward.
“We think this is an important step and we welcome the letter,” Clinton said in a joint meeting with Ashton. She stressed that the major powers were still reviewing their formal response to Tehran’s offer.
I can’t help but hope each time that this time will be the one where both sides decide solving the problem is more important than being seen to win the argument.
Update 2 Then again, maybe not.
Update 3 AIPAC-sponsored Senator’s are trying to constrain the options all the way down to “only war”.
A new bipartisan resolution introduced Thursday on Capitol Hill is part of a growing effort to shift the longstanding U.S. red line from Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon to having the capability to build one. Such a shift would bring U.S. policy in line with Israel’s approach.
The resolution — a nonbinding Senate statement backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee ”“ calls on the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring even the capability to build nuclear weapons.
It was introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and has 32 co-sponsors, roughly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. In order to garner Democratic support, the resolution’s authors had toned down its original language.
…As it now stands, the resolution ”œaffirms that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”
The language that was removed would have affirmed ”œthat it is within the power and capabilities of the United States Government to prevent the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”
Noting the ”œpower and capabilities” of the United States seemed too close to saber rattling for some Democrats, insiders said. A number of senators asked Graham to include an explicit denial that the resolution authorized military action; he flatly refused.
Capitol Hill insiders say that if Graham had not changed the language at all he likely would have failed to garner more than nominal Democratic support.
Robert Naiman points out, though, that even the amended wording is a recipe for war.
The phrase “vital national interest” is a “term of art.” It means something that the U.S. should be willing to go to war for. Recall the debate over whether the U.S. military intervention in Libya was a “vital national interest” of the United States (which Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it wasn’t.) It was a debate over whether the bar was met to justify the United States going to war.
The resolution seeks to establish it as U.S. policy that a nuclear weapons capability — not acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but the technical capacity to create one — is a “red line” for the United States. If the U.S. were to announce to Iran that achieving “nuclear weapons capability” is a red line for the U.S., the U.S. would be saying that it is ready to attack Iran with military force in order to try to prevent Iran from crossing this “line” to achieve “nuclear weapons capability.”
…That’s not a legal “authorization of force,” but it is a political one.
The “Japan Option” is not illegal under international law – but these Senators want the U.S. to launch pre-meditated aggressive war if Iran pursues it.