A Mexican Standoff between Iran and US over the Nuclear Issue
By Nader Bagherzadeh, UC,
For those who have been following
this complex issue there should be no doubt that although Iran talks to
the European Union representative, Xavier Solana, the real deal maker, or
breaker in most cases is US. This
has been confirmed by the news of Solana’s briefing Condi Rice, the US Secretary
of State, immediately after his meetings with Iranian negotiator Ali
Larijani. Also, most avid followers
of this debacle know that the biggest hurdle is how to deal with the suspension
of enrichment activity in Natanz.
Some in the Bush administration, such as former UN representative John
Bolton, are very proud of including this demand in the UN resolutions against
Iran, calling it a confidence
Although neoconservative and
pro-Israeli groups such as AEI and AIPAC are ecstatic about the negative
economical impact of these sanctions on Iran and hope for tougher ones, however,
the fact on the ground, as far as domestic nuclear technology is concerned, is
different. Iran is inching closer to mastering this
technology and the danger of a military confrontation is very real, even though
impartial experts outside the Office of Vice-President (OVP) almost all agree
that bombing Iran nuclear facilities will have
dire global consequences.
There was a time before these new
rounds of sanctions and pressures when some of the moderate but influential
Iranian officials were suggesting that Iran may limit its enrichment to
164-cascased centrifuge machines for R&D purposes only, while negotiations
were making progress. Since
US policy has always been to
prevent Iran from acquiring the knowledge to
enrich uranium, any discussion for continuation of enrichment activity at any
level was considered a non-starter.
Hence, as the sanctions were approved, at the Natanz facility
Iran moved from the above ground
Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) with two working 164-cascaded machines to the
underground massive halls of Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) where the industrial
enrichment facility is planed for construction of roughly 54,000 centrifuges.
The latest report from IAEA
confirmed operation of 8 164-cascades, for a total of 1312 centrifuge machines,
in preparation for expansion to 18 cascades for the development of the first
module in FEP, each module has 2952 centrifuges. Final assembly may require installing
eighteen modules at the staggering rate of 1400 centrifuges per month in order
to meet the projected completion date of 2010.
A New York Times article by David
Sanger (5/15/2007) reports that IAEA’s most recent inspection of the Natanz
facility, since the last official report, confirms that Iran’s 1312
centrifuge machines are “enriching uranium and running smoothly.” Inspectors have also observed 6 more
164-cascades in final stages of testing and installation in preparation for
completion of the first 18 cascade module sometime in June.
If the goal of West has been to help
IAEA resolve the so-called “ambiguities” about Iran’s past
nuclear activities, it is not necessary to demand suspension of enrichment. Figuring out why certain equipment in an
Iranian university was tainted with nuclear material is completely unrelated to
the spinning of centrifuge machines at the heavily monitored and inspected
Natanz facilities, whatsoever.
None of the concerns
reported by IAEA require suspending centrifuge machines; majority are related to
identifying sources of contamination and interviewing scientists that were
involved in these projects. Another
critical related issue is that, if Iran agrees to any suspension before
or during negotiations with the West, it is very unlikely that US will agree to
resumption of enrichment activity any time soon, at least not until January of
2009 when the current administration leaves office. Also, none of the US presidential candidates will dare to confront
the strong neo-conservative and pro-Israeli lobby against Iran for any
change in the enrichment policy once suspension has commenced--enrichment
suspension is a “one way” street.
Let’s review some of the current
most talked about proposals on the table for resuming
“Time Out” (Mohamed ElBaradei’s
proposal): Iran will suspend enrichment (other
activities such as R&D and uranium conversion may continue) and sanctions
will be on hold.
“Freeze for Freeze” proposal:
Iran continues with enrichment but
refrains from adding any new centrifuges, and West will not propose the third
pending sanction, but the first two existing sanctions will be
“Cold or Hot Standby” (also called
the Swiss proposal): Centrifuges will spin without injecting any feed for
enrichment, put in the “neutral gear” so to speak, and sanctions will be put on
All the these proposals are doomed
to failure because of two simple and fundamental issues: (1) Iran official have
repeated recently that the suspension of enrichment as a precondition for talks
is “non-negotiable” and (2) US-OVP will not agree with any enrichment activity
or any opportunity for Iran to learn gas centrifuge technology even if they are
running empty, in “neutral gear.”
As these two gun-slinging and
fire-breathing protagonists, US and Iran, respectively, are locked into
this Mexican standoff, the world is wondering which one will blink first, and
what would be the grave consequences of this standoff.
... Payvand News - 5/18/07 ...
... Payvand News - 5/18/07 ... --