Much of the conjecture we are hearing coming from the P5+1 (Five Permanent Security Council Members United States, Russia, China, England, and France plus Germany) negotiations with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program has been very troubling. There have been mentions that the fact that the Ayatollah Khamenei issued a fatwa classifying the manufacture, possession or use of nuclear weapons by an Islamic entity to be a grave sin. According the United States State Department this has to be taken into consideration when addressing the Iranian nuclear program. This fatwa by the Iranian Supreme Leader must be regarded as a validation of the peaceful intent of the Iranians and as a strong indicator that it is impossible for Iran to pursue nuclear weapons while he remains their Supreme Leader. They attribute their certainty to the power of this fatwa to their deep respect and understanding of Islam, the Koran, Sharia and all aspects of Muslim life, politics, and religious influences. Well, there is another not so insignificant aspect of Islamic law, namely taqiyya. Taqiyya is the allowance, almost a commandment and not merely suggestion, for Muslims to lie to non-Muslims especially if it will further the spread of Islam. Just possibly this would allow for an Islamic cleric, such as the Iranian Supreme Leader, to issue a fatwa which is invalid and intended to serve the purpose of concealing actions forbidden by this false fatwa. Do you think perhaps the State Department might wish to include consideration that just possibly the Ayatollah Khamenei might have been issuing something more along the lines of taqiyya in the form of a fatwa? Perhaps that might be a good idea.
So far the negotiations with Iran have led to absolutely no discernible modification in Iranian work towards reaching nuclear weapons capability. The sole lull in their drive came in response to the remarkably quick and easy defeat of their neighbor’s military during the second Iraq war which removed Saddam Hussein from leadership in Iraq. This short stall of their program as they waited to see who was next on the American list after Iraq lasted less than six months, or so intelligence has reported. We might remember the Libyan reaction to this same event when they surrendered their entire nuclear research and stockpiles and opened up their country to full inspections by the IAEA. Outside of that blip in the graph, Iranian efforts in both missile research and development and drive for nuclear weapons has steadily gained ground meeting one requirement after another on their path to having ballistic nuclear tipped weapons, also referred to as a deliverable nuclear weapon. Currently the missile technology of the Iranians has progressed from inaccurate medium range rockets to programmable targeted missiles with two-thousand mile range which is classified as ballistic missiles, their next achievement will likely be intercontinental ballistic missiles, something they have displayed being near to achieving with the launches of orbital satellites. But not to worry, their Supreme Leader issued a fatwa likely aimed at the West as taqiyya, but he did issue that fatwa.
Meanwhile, the Iranians have been refusing to actually meet any of the demands or requests by the West and only giving platitudes and promises to the United Nations, IAEA and the P5+1 by agreeing and even signing on to agreements and arrangements while having no tangible intents to actually honor their stated concessions. Despite the Iranian lack of honest dealings, the latest approach of the P5+1 has been to modify their demands to allow Iran to continue to enrich Uranium but only to a level of three and a half percent and to forgo their program which has produced uranium to twenty percent enrichment. They are also requesting that Iran release all of their stockpiles of twenty percent uranium and rely on foreign suppliers to provide nuclear material for medical usage. Iran has bristled at this suggestion and is demanding they retain their right to enrich uranium to whatever levels their requirements demand which would include the twenty percent level for medical use. The fact that assessments by specialists that Iran has produced twenty percent uranium well in excess of any amounts required even using the most generous of assessments does not appear to have any relevance to either side of the deliberations. Iran is seeking and the P5+1 may actually be considering that sanctions on Iranian petroleum assets and their banking systems be relieved or completely removed in return for Iran agreeing to sign to allowing full inspections by the IAEA of all nuclear sites. Of course this would only apply to those sites which have been identified and not those sites which Iran has been able to keep from disclosure or discovery.
So, how does Israel fit into all of these machinations? The main concern towards Israel has been mentioned by or implied by the Obama Administration, the European Union, particularly their foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and others from within the governments of the P5+1 has been preventing any military actions against the Iranian nuclear sites. The efforts to prevent Israeli actions have gone as far as revealing any plans or preliminary steps Israel may take in preparation for executing such missions. There have been leaks mostly from the American White House, though not traceable directly to President Obama yet, which have labeled numerous IAF training exercises as preparations for an Iranian strike, revealed the potential that the Israeli purchase of two decommissioned airfields in Azerbaijan located north of Iran and considerably closer to Iran could be used as a jumping off point or a refuel and emergency platform supporting an Iran strike, and releases and inferences of the extent of Israeli intelligence operations concerning the Iranian nuclear programs. It might be claimed that many in the P5+1 are more concerned with preventing Israeli military actions more than they care to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear armed nation. Yet, these are also the same forces which are insisting that Israel trust that they have protecting Israel from the threatened nuclear attacks by Iran as one of their primary reason d’etre. With their track record, who could blame Israel if they chose not to share information or their intents with even those claiming to be their friends and allies after such treatment of their efforts?
The real problem has become the fact that only one side has shown any willingness to compromise, though both sides have shown movement in their positions. The P5+1 held an original position that Iran had to surrender all uranium enrichment; all stockpiles of enriched uranium; rely on foreign supply of fuel rods for their reactors; surrender spent fuel rods in exchange for replacements; rely on foreign supply of all medical usage of nuclear elements; close permanently the Natanz facilities; open all sites including releasing the names and locations of all nuclear related and rocket research sites; and had yet to learn of the Furdow installations outside Qom or known of the high explosive research at an Iranian military facility. The P5+1 have modified their requests, downgraded from demands, that Iran cease enrichment beyond three and a half percent, surrender all stockpiles of twenty percent enriched uranium, the closure of the Furdow facilities, surrender all uranium enriched beyond three and a half percent, allow inspections of all known nuclear sites, and in return the P5+1 will permit the continued enrichment of uranium at Natanz to three and a half percent, manufacture of their own fuel rods, freedom to build additional reactors, Iran to oversee the decommissioned fuel rods, and no longer making demands on the missile or high explosive research carried out by the Iranian military usually by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. While the P5+1 have taken significant strides towards surrendering to Iranian demands, the Iranians have moved the goalposts further down the field by demanding not only enrichment to levels for use in their power generation reactors but also to levels for medical usage which would allow enrichment to twenty percent instead of only three and a half percent and have insisted that their research into missiles and explosives is not to be the concern of any foreign interest and thus must be allowed.
There is good reason as to why there are requests that Iran surrender enrichment to twenty percent and to limit them to only three and a half percent. To enrich uranium to the over ninety percent necessary for weaponizing takes significantly less effort and thus less time when starting with twenty percent enriched uranium. The difference is measured in months, not day or hours. It would take under six weeks for Iran to reach the needed amount of enriched uranium from twenty percent stock while it would likely take a minimum of four and as long as six months or even more to reach the same conditions for a weapon starting with three and a half percent enrichment as the starting level. The measurable additional time would also make it much easier for intelligence efforts to discover an Iranian move towards nuclear weapons which makes it all the more difficult. The intent is presumably to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, not just aiming to know when they have done so. This prevention is made easier the more Iran is restricted in enrichment procedures making none the most preferable amount. If Iran were forced to totally stop uranium enrichment, then all that would need to be detected would be the use of the specialized centrifuges which have telltale measurable properties. By permitting enrichment to any level would make it more difficult to detect Iran breaking the agreements as inspections would be necessary to detect even traces of higher enriched uranium. Requiring total disclosure and full inspections, including surprise unannounced spot inspections, along with permitting inspectors to inspect any or all military installations to check for any covert nuclear work, thus making the discovery of the unknown nuclear facilities would make efforts to prevent Iran reaching the breakout point far more difficult if not impossible. With the beginning of a slide away from their initial demands and weakening the requirements of Iran is not a good indicator of the resolve to prevent a nuclear armed Iran. Perhaps observing the allowed capitulation to Iran by the P5+1 is what has driven Israel to take a more cautious and nervous approach to the whole Iranian situation. How long before the State Department geniuses decide that twenty percent enrichment and inspections of the lobby of the Tehran International Airport will be the level Iran will be required to permit? Remember the one other item in this dance, Iran does not need the world’s permission, they simply require that they gain sufficient time until they produce nuclear weaponry which then makes all negotiations a moot point. If the world, especially any of the members of the P5+1, is serious about stopping the Iranian drive for nuclear weapon capability, then they need to stop the music, end the dance, and lay down the law and commit to whatever consequence may be required to put an end to Iranian progress, anything less is simply capitulation to evil intents.
Beyond the Cusp