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(29,876 posts)
Sun Mar 30, 2014, 06:56 PM Mar 2014

Iranian Nuclear Talks: Not What Israel Wants You To Believe [View all]

How are the Iranian nuclear talks really going? The answer is: very well, thanks for asking.

By Shemuel Meir

Contrary to what some in Israel would have you believe, the Iranian nuclear talks are not stalled and are proceeding full steam ahead. Between official meetings in Vienna, the technical talks are continuing – and those talks are building the framework for a permanent agreement, which will lead to a non-militarized nuclear Iran. High-level banter in Israel about “deceptive discussions” has no basis in reality. The sides may not yet have reached the stage of mutual trust (which is anyway not necessary; it is preferable to concentrate on verification and intrusive inspections) but there is mutual respect. At the conclusion of the latest rounds of talks, the Iranian and American spokespersons said that these talks had progressed well. The nuclear talks are apparently not an exact replica of the talks-to-nowhere taking place with the Palestinians.

The Iranian nuclear talks are proceeding according to an interim roadmap (Joint Plan of Action) which determined clear parameters along the way to a permanent agreement. At the end of the process, Iran will have the status of a non-nuclear weapon state with the capability to enrich low-level uranium (up to 5 percent, which is not suitable for nuclear weapons) under tight and intrusive IAEA supervision. (Already, in accordance with the interim agreement, daily monitoring is carried out at the centrifuge sites.) At the final phase of the permanent agreement, Iran will be required to ratify the IAEA “Additional Protocol,” allowing intrusive, short-notice inspections of undeclared sites (i.e., on the basis of U.S. intelligence).

Israel’s insistence on “zero uranium enrichment” is not realistic and is not on the agenda of the negotiations. According to the interim agreement, after a “probation period,” Iran will be treated in the same way as all states that have signed the NPT — as non-nuclear weapon state. The duration of the “probation” period will be a tough nut to crack and will require creative diplomacy. Another difficult issue will be the heavy water reactor at Arak, whose construction has been frozen. The U.S. would like to see the closure of the heavy water option and its transformation into a light water electricity reactor, which would not pose a military threat. Iran has taken a positive step toward the U.S. and has hinted at its readiness to carry out “modifications” (Iranian terminology) at the Arak reactor. This is a positive sign, but the exact meaning of “modifications” still needs to be determined. In addition, Iran has committed itself to not build a plutonium separation facility, which would be the only way to separate and produce military quality plutonium from the reactor’s used radiated fuel rods.

However, this is not the picture one gets from high-level Israel officials discussing the nuclear talks. Old new voices have been added to the daily portion of scary declarations about “existential threats”, “foot dragging,” general expressions of “there is nothing new under the sun” and assurances that Iran is continuing its dash to the bomb. Parallel to the announcement of the opening of the latest round of talks in Vienna, the Haaretz main headline reported that Defense Minister Yaalon hinted that Israel must be ready to take “unilateral military action” in the face of the Iranian threat – without asking permission from the U.S., which “cannot be relied upon.” A few days later, on March 20, another headline informed us that the prime minister and defense minister instructed the military to ignore the nuclear talks and to continue preparing for an “independent attack” on Iran. For this purpose, it was reported, NIS 10-12 billion ($2.86-$3.43 billion) has been allocated. A similar sum was invested in 2013.

But talk of an independent attack is not feasible – either militarily or politically. One cannot compare a single-strike surprise aerial attack on an isolated and unprotected target, such as the attack on the Iraqi Osirak reactor in 1981, with a wave of aerial strikes over a number of days to destroy protected military targets (more than just nuclear facilities) thousands of kilometers from Israel’s borders. This would require the capability of a superpower. From a political point of view, it is not reasonable that the U.S. – the gatekeeper of the NPT which is in the middle of intense diplomatic negotiations to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons – would assist a country outside the NPT (Israel) to attack an NPT member (Iran). Furthermore, a military strike would be liable to bring the opposite of the intended result: Iran would withdraw from the NPT and begin developing nuclear weapons.


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