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Iran Demanding Enrichment Rights Under NPT

By Nader Bagherzadeh

In recent weeks, the Iranian leadership and policy makers have been emphasizing their demand for the recognition of Iran's enrichment rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) from the P5+1. This was apparently one of the main issues that Iranian representatives were stressing during the two days of negotiations with the P5+1 at the second Almaty meeting. Since all of the P5+1 countries are signatory to the NPT, they have absolutely no legal basis or the authority to reject Iran's rights under this treaty. There are no provisions in NPT for a member country to deny the rights of another NPT member country. Then why is the Islamic Republic making this issue a red line for any future agreements with the P5+1?

Iranians form human chain to protect outside a uranium conversion plant in Isfahan
August 2005

It is probably because the P5+1 focus on the 20% enrichment for this first phase of reaching an agreement with Iran may also continue to limit lower enrichment rights as well for the future discussions. Therefore, even if Iran agrees to halt the production of 20% enrichment and curtail the operation of the underground Fordo facility, the Obama administration or any future administration will never agree to Iran having the freedom to expand industrial enrichment at will even at the lower level of 5%. It is clear from recent discussions by the nuclear experts and government officials around D.C. that once the 20% enrichment level has been halted, the next step is to limit the type and the number of centrifuges as well as the amount of 5% uranium 235 material that Iran will be allowed to keep. This alarms the Islamic Republic, because the demand for initial limits on 20% will most certainly be extended later on for the 5% enrichment level, which would be completely outside of Iran's agreement with the IAEA under its current Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement (CSA).

What this signifies is that although Article IV of NPT and Iran's CSA do not limit Iran's enrichment activity in terms of quality and quantity, the U.S. expectations are totally different from the treaty rights. Even if every military site is opened for inspection and interviews are allowed for suspected nuclear scientists, it is beyond the realm of possibility that Iran can be allowed to expand it is enrichment capability to say 50,000 centrifuges with higher efficiency values of 3 or 4, as expected from the new generation of centrifuges being installed at the Natanz facility.

As far as the U.S. government is concerned enrichment rights of nations is a thorny issue with different remedies when it comes to dealing with friends or foes. With conceived enemies such as Iran, the U.S. uses the "all options" strategy, applying broad economic sanctions and military strike threats. When it comes to friends, if they already do have the enrichment technology, as is the case for Japan and Brazil, there is not much that can be done. But for those friends that do not have this sensitive technology, every effort will be made to persuade them from acquiring this technology and relinquishing their rights to enrich. Some countries value their relationship with the U.S. and bend to the pressure, as is the case for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Others such as Jordan continue to drag their feet and hope for a better deal than UAE. And then there is the case of South Korea, a very technologically advanced country with a strong domestic nuclear reactor design capability, but lacks the enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel technology, because of prior agreements with the U.S. government. Given the current hostile and bellicose rhetoric coming out of North Korea and the fact that South Korea hopes to master all aspects of nuclear technology, to offer customers of their reactors a full turnkey solution, they will be exerting a lot of pressure on the Obama administration to revise the existing enrichment agreement.

The Obama administration has to find creative ways to deal with the demands of South Korea and Iran as these countries insist in utilizing their rights to enrich. Iran's case is more worrisome, because of various regional issue conflicts with the U.S., there may not be a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear debacle, if they insist in full recognition of enrichment rights under NPT. Another U.S. military adventure in the Middle East, this time with Iran to resolve the nuclear issue, would be disastrous as Bob Gates former U.S. Secretary of Defense said: "The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world,"

... Payvand News - 04/11/13 ... --

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