Necessary Concessions by Iran in Negotiations

Usual suspect David Albright, founder and president of ISIS, the Washington-based think tank Institute of Science and International Security, has been testified against Iran before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “Reversing Iran’s Nuclear Program: Understanding Iran’s Nuclear Program and Technically Assessing Negotiating Positions.” In the wake of sensible overtures by new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani inducing the usual dishonest ambiguous response by his U.S. American counterpart Barack Obama, Albright’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear program and in particular his demand of maximum concessions by the Iranian government is probably meant to undermine any efforts to end the 34-year stand-off and cold war between Iran and the U.S.

“Resolving outstanding issues with the IAEA over the military dimension

  • Address cooperatively the IAEA’s concerns over its past and possibly on-going military nuclear activities. ‘Coming clean’, or detailing past work on nuclear weapons, remains critical.

Limiting breakout times

  • End production of any more near 20 percent LEU and commit not to enrich uranium over five percent. Dismantle and decommission the tandem cascades at the Fordow site and the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment plant.
  • Send out under IAEA custody stocks of near 20 percent LEU in excess of near-term needs of the Tehran Research Reactor.
  • Decommission the Fordow enrichment site.
  • Commit not to assemble a production line to reconvert enriched U3O8 to UF6, whatever its enrichment level.
  • Freeze the number and type of Iran’s installed centrifuges to below an equivalent of 10,000 IR-1 centrifuges. Limit enrichment to the Natanz site only.
  • Send out under IAEA custody excess stocks of LEU enriched below five percent. Stocks could be considered excess if over the next several years, they are unlikely to be used to fuel a nuclear reactor. The total stock should be less than the equivalent of 1 tonne of LEU hexafluoride.
  • Convert all LEU remaining in Iran first into an oxide form and then into a solid fuel form.
  • Halt production of LEU enriched less than five percent, unless there is an economic need for domestically produced LEU fuel in a reactor.
  • Halt the construction of centrifuge components and the assembly of centrifuges, except a limited number to replace broken centrifuges at existing enrichment sites.

Increasing transparency

  • Enhance IAEA monitoring, including: implementing early notification of the construction of nuclear plants (or more formally implement modified code 3.1. of the Subsidiary Arrangements to Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement),ratifying the Additional Protocol, increasing the monitoring of centrifuge production and assembly facilities, and establishing remote monitoring at key nuclear sites.

Ending a plutonium pathway

  • Halt the construction and operation of the Arak heavy water reactor. Initiate studies to determine the feasibility and cost of converting the reactor to a light water moderator and LEU fuel.
  • Commit not to conduct any plutonium separation or reprocessing activities

Halting illicit nuclear trade and proliferation to other countries

  • Commit not to engage in nuclear smuggling to obtain any goods for its nuclear or missile programs. Key nuclear- and missile-related sanctions would become verification mechanisms to ensure Iran’s compliance with its agreements.
  • Agree not to proliferate nuclear technologies to other countries.”

The long list of demanded, by Albright, concessions is based on the assumption that Iran is  not in line with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement with the IAEA. The stand-off is, however, characterized that Iran denies that simple assumption. Iran denies that there are “outstanding issues” over the military dimension of its nuclear program since respective evidence provided to the IAEA by “member states” is, as to Iran, faked.

Since Iran’s leaders have long claimed that they are not pursuing developing nukes, demands regarding “limiting (hypothetical) breakout times” won’t lead anywhere. Iran would not give in to any of the listed issues. To start with in any negotiations is to accept Iran’s right, under the NPT, to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. That Iran has to ratify the modified Code 3.1 and the Additional Protocol is self-evident. Once the former had been facilitated, there would no longer be need for “illicit nuclear trade.” It’s all about confidence building.

In his testimony to the Senate, Albright suggests that Iran should “come clean” on its past military nuclear program (which has, according to the intelligence community in the U.S., been halted in 2003, most probably after the beginning of the Iraq war). His assumption that at least some of Iran’s nuclear activity after 2003 was related to nukes is based on an article in the New York Times by John Risen of 17 March 2012 when he wrote: “Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes, but American intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency have picked up evidence in recent years that some Iranian research activities that may be weapons-related have continued since 2003, officials said. That information has not been significant enough for the spy agencies to alter their view that the weapons program has not been restarted.” (Emphasis added.) So, Iran should “come clean” of what? That it had a military nuclear program before 2003? or afterwards (which even spy agencies found “not significant”, according to unnamed “officials” quoted in an article by the New York Times.

He describes lengthily the cases of South Africa and Brazil whose concession of having had a nuke program has built confidence of the “world”. Albright testifies,

“Iran may fear that it will be treated differently. The Iranian government may reason that if it comes clean about its past activities, it will be punished by the international community. But other cases argue against such a response. The key is admitting these past activities should be part of a process of placing strategic limitations on its nuclear programs, instituting far greater transparency, and adhering to frankness about its past. The IAEA and governments can then develop confidence that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons. But if Iran seeks to continue to hide its past military nuclear efforts, it may find that no amount of limitations and transparency on its current programs is enough to reassure the international community. Significant questions about its motives would likely remain, and thus it would be less likely to gain the major relief from sanctions it so desperately seeks.”

Albright closes his testimony with two key recommendations “that would increase the effectiveness of sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programs,” but would certainly not be regarded as confidence building measures among the Iranians.

  • “The U.S. government would announce it will designate China and Hong Kong, key persistent trans-shippers of U.S. goods to Iran’s nuclear program despite years of diplomatic overtures, as destinations of diversion concern under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) unless they make concrete changes within a given grace period. Just the threat of making this designation could inspire action on the parts of China and Hong Kong, as it did with the United Arab Emirates in 2007. If made official, such designations could reduce the supply to Iran of proliferation-sensitive goods, services, or technologies by: enhancing scrutiny by U.S. government licensing agencies of specific proliferation-sensitive exports from the United States to China and Hong Kong; increasing pressure on the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to crack down on diversion through their territories to Iranian end-users and Iranian intermediaries; and helping secure support from other countries which likewise face challenges in ensuring that sales to China and Hong Kong do not end up in Iran, allowing it to expand its nuclear programs.
  • The U.S. government should increase its use of sting operations and investigations aimed at stopping Iran’s illicit nuclear procurement networks and launch a major effort to encourage other governments to initiate their own sting operations against trafficking in nuclear-related commodities. Few governments conduct this type of sting operation, and U.S. sting operations against Iranian smugglers have been particularly effective. Implementing this recommendation would help create an additional risk factor for Iran and those helping Iran outfit its nuclear programs. The United States should work with global partners to assist them and coordinate with them on conducting their own or joint sting operations.”

If Albright were in the driver’s seat, it would be a longer way of reconciliation. It will be long anyway.

5 October 2013 @ 11:58 am.

Last modified October 5, 2013.

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