Jenkins (Source: LobeLog)
Representatives from Iran and 6 world powers sign a nuclear deal in Geneva on Nov. 24, 2013
(photo by Mona Hoobehfehr, ISNA)
On Dec. 2 the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled, What
a Final Iran Deal Must Do. The authorship is ascribed to Henry
Kissinger and George Shultz, but it is hard to believe that this piece is really
the work of such distinguished statesmen, so striking are the misleading
depictions of crucial facts and the shortcomings in their reasoning.
The authors open by reminding readers of their Cold War experience of
confronting "nuclear perils", implying an analogy between a Soviet Union that by
the 1970s possessed tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and an Iran which at
present possesses no more than an unproven, very basic and as yet unused nuclear
They go on to argue for the dismantling or mothballing of parts of Iran's
nuclear infrastructure, omitting to mention that they never tried to persuade
the USSR (or China) to dismantle any of their nuclear infrastructure (and would
have been given short shrift, had they done so). Instead, they negotiated
balanced arms control agreements that reduced "nuclear perils" by improving
mutual understanding and providing for confidence-building verification
In addition, they write as though there is a clear distinction between a
nuclear weapons capability and a "plausible civil nuclear program" (to which
they, rightly, raise no objection). The essential problem posed by a dual-use
nuclear technology like uranium enrichment is that no such distinction exists.
An enrichment plant that is producing fuel for reactors one day can be
reconfigured the next to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Because that is the case, it is a mistake to fixate on technical
capabilities. Far more useful is to minimise the risk that a state that
possesses nuclear weapons potential will ever want to realise it. The world is
full of states that possess the capacity to inflict death and destruction on
other states. Mercifully, most of that capacity remains unused because most
governments are smart enough to recognise that picking a fight is a pretty dumb
thing to do, i.e. not in the national interest, in a post-1945 world.
So it would have been wise of the authors to focus, not on a misleading
distinction between civil and military capacities, but on the desirability of
developing the mutual understanding that they, in their prime, were so adept at
fostering, and on confidence-building verification measures.
It would also have been reassuring if they had shown awareness of the
divergence of the outlook that has been a discernible characteristic of Iran's
leading politicians since the late 1980s. President Rouhani's outlook has little
in common with his predecessor's. He shares with former presidents Rafsanjani
and Khatami a pragmatic and defensive mind-set. None of these three leaders (all
are still alive) seeks to export Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Defending
Iranian interests is their guiding objective.
A penchant for treating facts misleadingly transpires in the authors'
description of Iran's nuclear program. They write as though it had been
established beyond all doubt that this is a military and not a civil or
safety-net dual-use program. It has not.
They also imply that the program is on a vast scale, whereas in fact it is
modest. Nearly eight years after the re-opening of the Natanz plant (following a
negotiated two year suspension of activity there) Iran only possesses enough
low-enriched uranium for four nuclear weapons (which it has not attempted to
make). Its stock of LEU would barely supply one quarter of the fuel needed to
re-load its 930MW power reactor at Bushehr. The 40MW reactor at Arak is still
Here are a few more egregious statements:
...progress on a heavy water reactor and plutonium reprocessing facility at
There is no trace of a reprocessing facility at Arak or anywhere else in
Iran. Since 2003 Iranian negotiators have steadily disclaimed any intention of
reprocessing spent fuel from any of their reactors.
IAEA directives have demanded...unconditional compliance with an IAEA
The International Atomic Energy Agency's board resolutions (which only have
political, not legal force) have urged Iran to grant exceptional access
to IAEA inspectors. Iran has complied with the regular Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) inspection regime.
...we must avoid an outcome in which Iran...emerges as a de facto nuclear
power leading an Islamist camp.
Do the authors really envisage Turkey, Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan
hailing Iran as their leader? They ought to know better.
...[Iran has] proceeded with a major nuclear effort...in violation of its NPT
None of the nuclear facilities built by Iran is outlawed by the NPT. Since
2003 the IAEA has reported regularly that all nuclear material known to be in
Iran's possession is in peaceful use, as required by the NPT, and has not
reported any evidence of undeclared nuclear material.
The flaws in this article matter because the ostensible authors are so
distinguished that they are likely to be seen as authoritative sources of wisdom
on the subject at issue. This impertinent critique of their analysis stands
little chance of correcting the perceptions of those who have been influenced by
this Dec. 2 piece. Nonetheless, here's hoping.
About the Author: Peter Jenkins was a British career diplomat for 33 years, following studies at the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard. He served in Vienna (twice), Washington, Paris, Brasilia and Geneva. He specialized in global economic and security issues. His last assignment (2001-06) was that of UK Ambassador to the IAEA and UN (Vienna). Since 2006 he has represented the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, advised the Director of IIASA and set up a partnership, ADRgAmbassadors, with former diplomatic colleagues, to offer the corporate sector dispute resolution and solutions to cross-border problems. He was an associate fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy from 2010 to 2012. He writes and speaks on nuclear and trade policy issues.
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