Turkey and Brazil have accepted Iran’s offer to swap uranium and enhance transparency beyond the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran has agreed to send uranium abroad and kept under watch in exchange for the supplies to fuel a reactor for medical research—an offer accepted in theory by the Western nation-states seeking “crippling sanctions” as unwarranted collective punishment, but in practice consistently filibustered.
“In a move that will likely drive a stake into the heart of the near-term prospects for the U.S.-backed ‘crippling sanctions’ against Iran, Turkey and Brazil have managed to come up with a compromise deal that provides everything the Western nations claimed to have wanted from the third-party enrichment deal in the first place,” Jason Ditz writes at AntiWar News today.
“The terms mirror a deal with the West last October that fell apart when Iran backtracked. But it is far from clear that the Obama administration will agree to it now—in part because Iran has continued to enrich uranium, adding to its stockpiles,” Michael Slackman reports at The New York Times today.
“The Obama administration now faces the uncomfortable prospect of rejecting a proposal it offered in the first place—or seeing months of effort to enact new sanctions derailed,” Glenn Kessler wrote at The Washington Post today.
World Nuclear News (WNN) reports the details of the deal:
Under the terms of the joint declaration, signed in Tehran in front of the three countries’ heads of state, Iran agrees to deposit 1200 kg of its own low-enriched uranium in Turkey for safekeeping. While in Turkey, the uranium would remain Iranian property but would be open to monitoring by observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. In return, Iran would receive 120 kg of the fuel it needs for the Tehran Research Reactor (T.R.R.) supplied by the so-called Vienna Group, comprising the U.S., Russia, France and the IAEA.
The TRR, which produces medical isotopes, requires fuel enriched to 19.75% uranium-235 which has in the past been supplied from foreign sources. The reactor is now reported to be low on fuel supplies. Iran continues to persist with a domestic uranium enrichment program despite continued calls from the IAEA to cease and the imposition of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, and earlier this year president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad reportedly instructed the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) to begin working towards enriching uranium to 19.75%. The announcement was seen in some quarters as a step towards the possible production of weapons-usable uranium, which requires enrichment to around 90%. For comparison, fuel for electricity generation in civil nuclear power plants requires enrichment only to around 5%.
The Iranian has a week to disclose the full agreement to the IAEA, WNN reports, for the Vienna Group to approve. “The Vienna Group would then have a year to supply the 120 kg of research reactor fuel to Iran. If the conditions of the declaration are not respected, Turkey would ‘swiftly and unconditionally’ return the LEU at Iran’s request,” the report adds.
There are concerns flooding the narrative, partly addressed by Nathan Hodge at Wired, who adds:
Iran is trumpeting the deal as a diplomatic victory: The United States and its allies were expected to push for a tougher round of international sanctions next month, after Lebanon gives up its rotating presidency at the U.N. Security Council. And at first blush, the deal mirrors an arrangement the International Atomic Energy Agency forwarded in October (which is and backed by Western governments) to send out Iran’s uranium for enrichment in France and Russia.
The so-called concern is two-fold:
- The amount of LEU being deposited now consists of 50% of its supply, as opposed to the 70% it did when the government initiated the deal, Mr. Kessler reports.
- Nuclear enrichment at 19.75% would double their capability of enriching to the point where the government could produce a nuclear weapon, Mr. Slackman reports.
Neither has any teeth.
First, the LEU remaining in Iran’s possession—and this is uncontroversial—is closely observed and safeguarded with no complaints by the IAEA as fully compliant with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.). Without breaching the treaty, there is no legal argument to support sanctions. Iran’s LEU stockpile is at the point of ridiculous-to-discuss that its inclusion in the narrative is nothing more than a distraction.
Second, that enrichment to 19.75 “brings it closer to weapons grade”, as reported by Mr. Slackman, is deceptively ignorant of two crucial points: (a) the most extreme hypothetical of enriching the LEU to 19.75% in addition to what’s being received is still insufficient (in quantity) to approach the weapons grade of “around 90%” and the enrichment is transparent to the point that weapons-grade capability is impossible under observation; and (b) surpassing 19.75% would require publicly expelling the IAEA inspectors still without enough time to produce a nuclear weapon before Israel or the U.S. would execute an internationally supported military strike on the nuclear facilities necessary to produce weapons-grade uranium.
In fact, Mr. Slackman recognizes via omission that (1) is of no significant concern as Mr. Kessler does of (2) by never even mentioning weapons-grade capability. And neither offer up any argument to even attempt claiming that Iran is in violation of international law to warrant “crippling sanctions” as collective punishment of the Iranian people.
The U.S.-led cabal also has no formal disagreement with the deal as it could never argue Iran was in violation of international law. The newest creation of ratcheting up fear over LEU is now countered by the swap deal to which it has already agreed.
“Though the inclusion of Turkey is a new rub, everything else about the deal seems to be designed to be verbatim to the P5+1 deal in October, which the Obama Administration has repeatedly demanded Iran sign,” Mr. Ditz adds.
The only difference between this deal and the prior agreement are the parties involved. Initially, France was to be a third party; now it is Brazil, a U.S. ally in opposition to sanctioning Iran, and the holder of uranium deposits is Turkey, a well-standing member of NATO. This displays the overt conclusion that the continued expressed concerns of the U.S., European Union and Britain are not concerns over security or nuclear proliferation, but their will to control being thwarted.
Sanctions and Discontent
International sanctions would require the approval of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France. Before this deal, Russia and China consistently expressed they would veto such a proposal. On top of no legal basis for sanctions, Russia’s a weapons supplier to Iran and China imports more oil from Iran than any other nation-state other than Saudi Arabia.
Sergei Lavrov, foreign minister of Russia, was quoted last week by Interfax last week that unilateral sanctions by the U.S. or any other country “cannot under any circumstances” be legally “imposed by one or other government bypassing the Security Council”.
“The position of the United States today does not display understanding of this absolutely clear truth,” he added. More specifically, the sanctions recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives are an act of war. An aggressive act of war is antithetical to intentions relating to security.
The U.S.-led cabal is also actively unconcerned with the insecurity induced by further nuclear proliferation by nation-states. The U.S. actively supports the enhanced lack of transparency of nuclear proliferation by Israel, India and Pakistan. Where these three differ from Iran most significantly is that that these three actually already possess nuclear weapons, the capabilities to increase their supplies and overtly threaten to use them.
Though India has agreed to allow IAEA inspectors to begin looking into their facilities, it still “refuses to sign” the N.P.T., the Agence France-Presse reported in February, making whatever degree of openness completely ceremonial. Yet, the Obama Administration “has placed safeguards on its nuclear facilities” from international scrutiny. China’s “decision to sell nuclear reactors to Pakistan”, as reported by Ashish Kumar Sen at The Washington Times (WaTimes) this month is not expected to receive any scrutiny from the U.S. either, though the Pak government doesn’t yet have the formal safeguards like India.
Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote in a recent paper—quoted by Mr. Sen—that the Obama Adminsitration “may also tolerate China’s new nuclear deal with Pakistan because Obama wants China’s support for United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran this spring”.
The Administration “has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said” to Eli Lake at the WaTimes, he reported last October.
“Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs,” he reported. In a report earlier this month, he added the U.S. was actively attempting to block a move headed by the Egypt-led Non-Aligned Movement to confer in 2001 to declare the Middle East as a “nuclear-free” zone.
Michael Krepon added at ArmsControlWonk.com:
Cairo has a legitimate beef. When the N.P.T. was extended indefinitely in 1995, member states endorsed a resolution championed by Egypt calling for practical, progressive steps to establish an effectively verifiable zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in the Middle East. Israel has been a free-rider to the N.P.T., enjoying the constraints the Treaty imposes on others while remaining an outlier. Israel could reinforce the N.P.T.’s objectives and purposes by ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and declaring a moratorium on fissile material production, but it has done neither.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (G.A.O.) recently released a 1978 working paper titled, “Nuclear Diversion in the U.S.? 13 Years of Contradiction and Confusion” [.pdf]. Grant Smith recently wrote at AntiWar.com:
The 62-page General Accounting Office investigation and correspondence confirms the United States refuses to mount credible investigations that would enable warranted prosecutions of the perpetrators….
The report reveals why the 2010 Non-Proliferation Review Conference at the U.N.—like the G.A.O.—isn’t really capable of challenging the true drivers of Middle East nuclear proliferation. “Nuclear Diversion in the U.S.? 13 Years of Contradiction and Confusion” is a report so unique and noble in intent that there will probably never be another like it. While it leaves unexplored the ongoing presence, influence, and effect of Israel’s lobbyists working at the center of U.S. presidential administrations, for concerned Americans the G.A.O. provides a snapshot of a moment in time before their Congress, aspiring politicians, and mid-level management of government agencies all “got the memo.”
In 2010 that unwritten memo reads something like this: Crimes committed in the name of Israel – no matter how audacious – will never be properly investigated, let alone prosecuted… so don’t waste your time.