More Right-Headedness on PMD

. . . from Greg Thielmann in this op-ed in Reuters today:

Though discussions between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are proceeding in parallel to the six-power nuclear negotiations with Iran, some argue that Tehran must “come clean” on past military experiments before it can be trusted to make new commitments. But reaching and implementing a nuclear agreement should not be held hostage to resolving all the complicated questions about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear programs.

I’m following the news on the negotiations like everyone else, and at the moment it doesn’t seem to be looking good for reaching a comprehensive agreement by this weekend. In fact it appears that there is a resignation among the negotiators to opt for an extension of the current interim agreement, and come back to the negotiating table in August or September.

I don’t have a whole lot that’s original to add to the reams of commentary about what should happen here. I’m glad to see some people criticizing the P5+1 for their misplaced focus on denying Iran “breakout capability.”  Paul Pillar and Steve Walt have written very good pieces on this recently. I think the P5+1 negotiators should take their advice and not press for unrealistic limits on Iran’s enrichment capability.

I think the window for making a deal will not last forever, and that Iran has already given a lot by way of concessions on Arak and its enrichment program. Its time for the P5+1 negotiators to realize that the deal isn’t going to get much better, and that not making a deal could result in missing this fleeting opportunity altogether.

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3 Comments on “More Right-Headedness on PMD”

  1. Cyrus says:

    The emphasis on “breakout” is not “misplaced” – it is deliberately placed there. The debate was never about the technical nuclear issues so a solution is not to be found there — ultimately, this is a poitical fight. It requires the US to finally come to political terms with the existence and legitimacy of the IRI. Accepting Iran’s right to enrich means accepting the IRI as a legitimate entity, and everything that goes with it. On the other side, the IRI’s very credibility is at stake, and backing down on what is a sovereign right in the face of over-reaching US demands would be tantamount to regime-suicide, ensuring that the IRI goes down in history along with the Qajars as a corrupted regime willing to sell-out to foreign powers. Imagine — all of this could have been avoided had Iran simply been allowed to buy the fuel it was denied. US policy of using the nuclear issue as a pretext for regime-change has spectacularly backfired, not only forcing Iran to increase enrichment levels but also turning it into an issue of national pride, feeding right into the national narrative of an “Iran being kept down by Imperial powers” with popular support cutting across all political persuasions. How many times did the Iranians repeatedly say that they were quite eager to end 20% enrichment if they could only buy the fuel for TRR ? Why did the US sanction the sale of fuel for a civilian research reactor which not ony was used to treat over 600,000 medical patients, but which absolutely posed no weapons proliferation threat whatsoever? What did preventing fueling the TRR accomplish for us other than to encourage the Iranians to increase enrichment and also place the lives of innocent medica patients at stake?

    The people who pushed this policy which now requires the US to try to negotiate down the advances in Iran’s nuclear program that were the conseqence of US policies themselves, should be real proud of themselves.

    Of course, no one will question any of this so I don’t expect any accountability.

  2. Don Bacon says:

    Regarding “breakout” Walt is behind a paywall but on Pillar he fails to define breakout, except to suggest that breakout is amassing a large quantity of highly enriched uranium which can be directly used to fashion one or more nuclear warheads. This seems to be the current fashion.

    Isn’t it too bad that such a controversial term fails to be defined properly, completely disregarding the lengthy process of converting a gas to a solid and fashioning a demonstrable working nuclear device, not a simple nor a quick process even when deception is in their DNA.

    I completely agree with Cyrus. If the US doesn’t achieve Iran regime change with this concocted nuclear issue they will attempt it otherwise, falling back on “world’s leading supporter of terrorism” and/or “human rights violations” and/or “faulty elections” and/or “sanctions violations” — the list (and lust) goes on. Iran has ME hegemony and the US wants it, as has been the case for sixty years at least.

    • Cyrus says:

      Walt makes the unfortunate mistake of suggesting that Iran is interested in nuclear weapons if only defensively. This is simply speculation and overlooks several facts, namely, that Iran not only suspended enrichment for 2 years but repeatedly offered to place additional restrictions on its nuclear program well beyond what the NPT or even AP required, restrictions that no other nation have accepted. Countries that want to keep open a path to the bomb would not have done so. Currently there are 40 nations that already have the capability to make nukes on short notice so the entire concept of breakout is nonsense, since Iran has at worst simply joined 1 out of 4 nations on the planet.

      This isn’t about nuclear weapons or breakout or threats of proliferation and never was. That’s just an excuse.


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