World Powers Meet on Iran Nuclear Deal

Written by Warren Mass on November 20 2009.

A report from Iran’s Press TV provided more details of the proposed agreement than is generally found in the Western media. It noted:

The [Brussels] meeting came after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the country has sought to modify a Western-backed proposal put forth by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The proposal, in its current state, asks Iran to send most of its domestically produced low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad for further refinement.

Iran needs 20 percent-enriched uranium to power the Tehran nuclear reactor, which produces medicine for cancer treatment and other scientific necessities.

Mottaki, however, said on Wednesday that "Iran will not send its 3.5-percent-enriched uranium out of the country."

Tehran has proposed to keep the LEU in a room sealed by the IAEA inside the country until the higher-enrich[ed] uranium arrives. Under this proposal, the exchange would be completed in two stages — 400 kg of Iran's LEU would be exchanged with 58 kg of 20 percent-enriched uranium in each stage.

Mohamed ElBaradei (photo, above), director of the IAEA, told reporters in Berlin on November 20 that he still hopes Iran will accept the deal, but that "ball is very much in the Iranian court.”

"I would hate to see that we are moving back to sanctions," said ElBaradei, his veiled threat unmistakable. "Because sanctions, at the end of the day ... really don't resolve issues."

A report from Bloomberg News quoted ElBaradei’s statement to reporters: “We have not received any written response from Iran. I hope they will not miss this unique — I call it fleeting — opportunity, because it’s not going to continue for a long time.”

Bloomberg cited an IAEA statement in a November 16 report that the agency has lost confidence in Iran’s truthfulness and can’t be sure the country isn’t hiding more nuclear facilities, following Iran’s revelation in September of the existence of a previously undeclared enrichment facility at Fordo, about 100 miles south of Tehran, near the city of Qom.

VOA News reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his government may consider better relations with the West, but only if it changed its "arrogant" attitude and returned some of Iran’s assets. 

Iran has not suspended its controversial uranium enrichment activities, despite three rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

AP reported that President Barack Obama said on November 19 that the six nations will develop a package of serious new punitive measures during the coming weeks. However, he did not give details of which measures are under consideration.

Not having access to Iran’s nuclear-enrichment facilities, this writer — like virtually every other non-Iranian journalist — has no way of determining how much low-enriched uranium (or higher enriched uranium) the Islamic Republic of Iran has stockpiled, much less what the Iranians intend to do with it. But, admittedly, I much preferred the “old Iran,” ruled by the dashing pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to the post-revolutionary Islamic republic founded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — the militant anti-American regime that held fifty-two U.S. Embassy personnel hostage for 444 days from late 1979 through early 1981.

But, though most Americans may find Iran’s post-revolutionary leaders to be thoroughly dislikable, this same government fought a war against Saddam Hussein (who never would have won a popularity contest among Americans, either) for eight long years, from 1980-1988. That war ended in a draw mainly because casualties were so high they decimated the ranks of both nation’s armies. Perhaps that should be a lesson for Americans: Simply leave Middle Eastern rivals alone and let them duke it out until no one remains standing.

In any event, it cannot be shown that any uranium enrichment program that Iran might conduct is a threat to the United States, because even if they did manage to produce an atomic weapon or two they would have no reliable means to use those weapons against U.S. (or probably even Israeli) targets. That Israel is superior to Iran in deliverable nuclear weapons is widely agreed upon. For example, according to a report from the Nuclear information project:

By the late 1990s the U.S. Intelligence Community estimated that Israel possessed between 75-130 weapons, based on production estimates. The stockpile would certainly include warheads for mobile Jericho-1 and Jericho-2 missiles, as well as bombs for Israeli aircraft, and may include other tactical nuclear weapons of various types.

If even the tiny New Jersey-sized Israel is more than capable of defending itself against a potential Iran nuclear attack,  the idea that Teheran poses a military threat to the United States is incredible.

Furthermore, the risk that Iran would face in using nuclear weapons against its neighbors is its own deterrent. In his September 2004 Naval Postgraduate School Master's Thesis, entitled: “National Security to Nationalist Myth: Why Iran Wants Nuclear Weapons,"  USAF Major Charles C. Mayer noted:

If Iran deploys nuclear weapons, it risks greater security problems than those it would have solved. The Gulf States would run closer to the United States for a security guarantee. Pakistan and even India would be forced to account for Iranian capability, changing the focus from each other to Iran. Israel would take a greater interest in Iran, if it had nuclear weapons, as would the United States. Some larger Arab states may be pushed to proliferate in response, also. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and perhaps Egypt are all candidates for proliferation as a response to a successful Iranian breakout. All of these possibilities ensure a greater American presence in the region; all are outcomes Iran wishes to avoid. An Iranian bomb makes Tehran more vulnerable than it is without it. Iran’s strategy is based on a strategic environment that no longer exists. It is reluctant to reevaluate security options in the new environment because it believes in the nationalist myth of nuclear security. [Emphasis added.]

Why, therefore, has President Barack Obama said that the six nations meeting in Brussels will develop a package of serious new punitive measures against Iran? The answer lies in the makeup of the group — acting in concert as members of the UN Security Council to address a violation of the UN’s IAEA-brokered agreement. Just as Saddam Hussein did not actually need to possess actual weapons of mass destruction to warrant a UN-authorized invasion to remove him from power, Iran need not pose a threat to anyone in order to warrant UN-authorized sanctions. It is not enough for a nation to refrain from threats against other nations; it must also refrain from posing a threat to UN worldwide rule.

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