Dodg­ing the Ira­nian nu­clear bomb

Only France had the for­ti­tude to thwart ‘a sucker’s deal’

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - By Reza Kahlili

Had France not balked, the P5+1 group of world pow­ers might have al­lowed Iran to get its foot in the door of the nu­clear-armed club­house. “One wants a deal,” French For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius said Sun­day in Geneva as the lat­est round of ne­go­ti­a­tions over Iran’s il­licit nu­clear pro­gram broke up, “but not a sucker’s deal.” In­deed, that’s ex­actly what the Is­lamic repub­lic has been play­ing the world pow­ers as — suck­ers — for years and years as it seeks to buy time to de­velop nu­clear weapons and force the West to ac­cept its nu­clear sta­tus as a fait ac­com­pli.

Iran’s lat­est bait-and-switch ploy be­gan ear­lier this year as the regime’s supreme leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, and his rul­ing cadre of mul­lahs changed tac­tics to buy the pre­cious time needed to com­plete their goal of be­com­ing the undis­puted power in the re­gion. They have mas­tered the nu­clear fuel cy­cle and are steps away from nu­clear weaponiza­tion.

The new tac­tics to achieve that? Present a new face of Iran to the world, one of sin­cere moder­a­tion and rea­son­able­ness, some­one un­like the boast­ful bully, for­mer Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad.

So the mul­lahs set­tled on Has­san Rouhani to be­come the new pres­i­dent in June’s elec­tions. Mr. Rouhani would give the Ira­nian peo­ple some­thing to hope for, some­one who would change course and help end the crush of the stag­ger­ingly strict sanc­tions. The Ira­nian econ­omy is on the brink of col­lapse and so, too, feared the mul­lahs, might their reign be. That fear is so pal­pa­ble that the theoc­racy has drawn up plans to de­ploy Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, Basij and in­ter­nal se­cu­rity forces against its own peo­ple to bru­tally sup­press any up­ris­ing against the wors­en­ing eco­nomic cri­sis.

No one is al­lowed to run for pres­i­dent of the Is­lamic repub­lic un­less he will fur­ther the goals of the theoc­racy. Those who try to run with­out the mul­lahs’ bless­ing are ei­ther jailed or ex­e­cuted. While Mr. Rouhani ran as a mod­er­ate, he is ex­actly what Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said he is: a wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing.

This wolf tried to pull the wool over the world’s eyes. Me­dia around the world hailed him as a mod­er­ate and wel­comed a change in Iran’s di­rec­tion. The new pres­i­dent went to New York in Septem­ber and told the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly what it wanted to hear, and Mr. Rouhani even had a phone chat with Pres­i­dent Obama.

The stage was set for the lat­est bait and switch. First, a hint was given to the world pow­ers that the time was right for a deal that would end the stand­off and sanc­tions. The bait was set. The world pow­ers sent their deputy for­eign min­is­ters to Geneva for the lat­est round of talks to work out the de­tails.

Then Iran switched. It de­manded what it had pre­vi­ously de­manded: the right to en­rich ura­nium and the right to ex­pand its nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties, all the while work­ing to bring a plu­to­nium fa­cil­ity at Arak online, which would give it a sec­ond path to nu­clear weapons.

Star­tled, Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and his for­eign min­is­ter coun­ter­parts rushed to Geneva to save the “deal.” In­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions into early Sun­day morn­ing failed. Iran was in­tran­si­gent — but so was France.

Back-chan­nel ne­go­ti­a­tions and se­cret meet­ings be­tween the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ira­nian of­fi­cials rep­re­sent­ing the views of the supreme leader go back to 2009. At that time, Iran was sub­ject to sev­eral U.N. sanc­tions con­di­tioned on its sus­pen­sion of all ura­nium en­rich­men­tre­lated and re­pro­cess­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, which had pro­duced 1,200 kilo­grams of low-en­riched ura­nium at its Natanz fa­cil­ity. The regime agreed to move for­ward with ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The high-level talks in Geneva in Oc­to­ber 2009 seemed promis­ing when the Ira­nian del­e­gates agreed to the terms of the P5+1 group to ex­port 75 per­cent of its en­riched ura­nium and to al­low fur­ther in­spec­tion of its nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties. As mil­lions of Ira­ni­ans took to the streets de­mand­ing change, the pro­posed agree­ment gave the regime enough time to sup­press its own peo­ple, tor­tur­ing and killing many while the free world watched.

Early in 2010 when the threat of up­ris­ing was over, the regime an­nounced that the terms agreed to in Geneva were no longer ac­cept­able and that now they had also mas­tered en­rich­ing to the 20 per­cent level, which is 80 per­cent of the way to weaponiza­tion.

This time, the P5+1 wants Iran to sus­pend its nu­clear pro­gram for six months in re­turn for the eas­ing of some mi­nor sanc­tions. No, the Ira­ni­ans said. We want all sanc­tions ended on our oil and bank­ing in­dus­tries. We might curb en­rich­ing ura­nium to the 20 per­cent level, but that’s it.

The race for time is on. Iran needs the oil and bank­ing sanc­tions ended to pre­vent the im­mi­nent col­lapse of its econ­omy and an up­ris­ing of its peo­ple. It would buy more time to work on weaponiza­tion with the en­riched ura­nium it al­ready has.

To­day, Iran has more than 19,000 cen­trifuges and more than 10 tons of low-en­riched ura­nium, along with more than 400 pounds of highly en­riched ura­nium at the 20 per­cent level, which can be con­verted to weapons grade within weeks. It also has over 1,000 bal­lis­tic mis­siles in heav­ily for­ti­fied fa­cil­i­ties and many on mo­bile ve­hi­cles.

This is what time has al­ready bought. Now Iran is stalling for even more time.

ILLUSTRATION BY GREG GROESCH

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