Rus­sia an­nounces nuke deal with Iran Move com­pli­cates U.S.-led talks on Tehran’s atomic pro­gram as dead­line nears

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY GUY TAY­LOR

Rus­sia’s atomic agency an­nounced Tues­day it will build eight civil­ian nu­clear re­ac­tors for Iran, a move that adds com­plex­ity and ten­sion to on­go­ing Western ne­go­ti­a­tions over the Is­lamic repub­lic’s dis­puted nu­clear pro­gram.

Moscow has helped Tehran pro­duce nu­clear-gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity since the early 1990s. But news of the pro­gram’s sud­den ex­pan­sion comes ahead of a Nov. 24 dead­line for the in­ter­na­tional nu­clear talks to fall apart or cul­mi­nate in deal that would curb Iran’s nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties.

Western pow­ers for years have sus­pected Iran is se­cretly pur­su­ing nu­clear weapons — a charge Tehran de­nies, claim­ing its nu­clear pro­gram is purely for peace­ful pur­poses such as elec­tric­ity and med­i­cal needs.

It re­mains to be seen how Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment will af­fect the year-old talks be­tween Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group — the U.S., Bri­tain, France, Rus­sia and China, plus Ger­many.

The talks, which al­ready had been ex­tended after miss­ing a dead­line six months ago, may be con­tin­ued beyond the Nov. 24 dead­line. But there are signs a last­ing agree­ment re­mains far from reach.

U.S. and Ira­nian of­fi­cials have said they failed to make progress to­ward a deal dur­ing the lat­est round of talks over the week­end.

More­over, the talks were held be­neath a widen­ing shadow of frus­tra­tion among the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency in­spec­tors, who say Iran’s pro­gram con­tin­ues to lack the trans­parency re­quired to con­vince the West that no nu­clear bomb is be­ing made.

The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported Fri­day that a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil-backed IAEA team had is­sued a clas­si­fied re­port lament­ing Iran’s un­will­ing­ness to pro­vide in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors with ac­cess to its nu­clear sites — de­spite hav­ing agreed to such ac­cess as a pre­text for the nu­clear talks.

The IAEA has long sought ac­cess an Ira­nian mil­i­tary fa­cil­ity south­east of Tehran known as Parchin. The agency, ac­cord­ing to the AP, had said it sus­pects Iran keeps a spe­cial cham­ber at the fa­cil­ity for test­ing high ex­plo­sives linked to set­ting of a nu­clear blast.

An Ira­nian op­po­si­tion group, mean­while, claimed Fri­day to have inside in­tel­li­gence linked to such test­ing. The Na­tional Coali­tion of Re­sis­tance of Iran told re­porters in Wash­ing­ton that a sec­ond ex­plo­sives cham­ber ex­ists at an un­known lo­ca­tion inside Iran, and that it and the Parchin fa­cil­ity were built by a company with ties to Iran’s mil­i­tary.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had pro­vided $5.7 bil­lion in sanc­tions re­lief to Iran as part of a pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment in the on­go­ing nu­clear talks — un­der which Tehran promised to di­lute or con­vert its ex­ist­ing stock­pile of 20 per­cent-en­riched ura­nium, ma­te­rial that could be used to de­velop a weapon.

Prospects for a more per­ma­nent deal seemed to dim fur­ther Tues­day, when a for­mer top nu­clear in­spec­tor claimed the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity re­mains in the dark about Tehran’s stock­piles of nu­clear ma­te­rial and ad­vanced ura­nium en­rich­ment cen­trifuges.

“We don’t know where [the Ira­ni­ans] are to­day,” said Olli Heinonen, for­mer deputy di­rec­tor of the IAEA, whose in­spec­tors have long been tasked by the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil with de­ter­min­ing the sta­tus of Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

Mr. Heinonen, who spent 27 years at agency be­fore his cur­rent role as a se­nior fel­low at Har­vard Univer­sity’s Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment, told re­porters that in­spec­tors can­not be cer­tain Iran is not hid­ing thou­sands of ad­vanced IR-2m ura­nium en­rich­ment cen­trifuges — and that the Is­lamic repub­lic may be within months of de­vel­op­ing a nu­clear weapon.

“If you have 1,000 of th­ese cen­trifuges and you start with nat­u­ral ura­nium, at the end of one year, you have enough ma­te­rial for one nu­clear de­vice at least,” Mr. Heinonen said. “If you take 2,000 of th­ese cen­trifuges and nat­u­ral ura­nium, it will be half [the time]. If you take 4,000 of them, it will be three months.”

But the time it takes to reach “break­out ca­pac­ity” for a nu­clear weapon is cut “to less than half,” Mr. Heinonen said, if one be­gins with low-en­riched ura­nium — some­thing Iran has sought the right to pos­sess dur­ing the on­go­ing nu­clear talks.

He added that, re­gard­less of any po­ten­tial agree­ment reached be­tween the P5+1 and Iran, at the end of the day, the Is­lamic repub­lic re­mains un­der the de­mand of a host of past Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions de­mand­ing that it halt its nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.