Beyond the Cusp

June 23, 2012

Will Anybody Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon?

Let’s be honest and look at the actual actions and ignore the lame excuses and improbable claims which make up the P5+1 countries’ leadership and negotiators about the guarantee that they will take all measures necessary in order to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weaponry by Iran and their constant reminder that a military option remains on the table. To fully understand the inclinations and to predict the likely direction that the P5+1 will follow in the future it is necessary to take a critical examination of their past stances. Going back some number of years the negotiation teams for the P5+1 were standing their ground demanding that Iran must terminate all uranium enrichment and ship every single gram of enriched uranium and yellow cake and other base uranium ores out of the country and rely on foreign supply of uranium fuel for their reactors and medical usage while also shipping spent fuel rods back to their supplying country for disposal. The P5+1 was adamant that Iran not be allowed to retain any nuclear material and subject themselves to full IAEA inspections with full access to any and all sites the inspectors believed necessary. This was pretty much the unmovable red line which Iran must not be allowed to cross and the P5+1 really, really meant that.

The first signs of weakening by the P5+1 were around this time when satellite photos gave evidence of the undeclared uranium enrichment site being constructed near Qom. This was the Fordo plant near Qom which was being constructed deep within a mountain and heavily fortified to resist any reasonable level of attack by any country opposing the Iranian nuclear program. Despite this evidence that Iran was still attempting to keep their efforts hidden and was not disclosing new sites as is required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the P5+1 made adjustments presumably as a sign they could be reasonable and were not going to be unyielding on any front with Iran. This flexibility was displayed by agreeing to modify their red lines such that Iran would be allowed to enrich a limited amount of uranium to a level of 3.0 to3.5 percent purity, fuel grade levels. Where this was intended to show that he P5+1 were capable of being understanding and making a gesture of goodwill, the Iranians simply saw this as weakness and a lack of fortitude on the part of the P5+1 and simply hardened their stance by walking away from the talks.

In order to bribe Iran at every turn, the P5+1 has slowly but inexorably kept backing their red line until we have gotten to the point we are at now. The red lines now are that Iran must stop enriching uranium to 20 percent or higher, must ship all uranium enriched to these levels out of the country, subject known Iranian nuclear sites to IAEA inspectors, reveal questionable research and developmental efforts at military facilities suspected of being utilized to produce nuclear triggers for nuclear devices (bombs and warheads), and rely on foreign supply for the medium enriched uranium usually necessary in medical procedures with limits that such supplies would be subject to reasonable levels. The P5+1 made concessions to allow Iran to enrich uranium to 3.0 or 3.5 percent purity and possibly even to 5.0 percent and to establish the entire fuel cycle for their nuclear reactors from ore through the enrichment and the production of fuels rods and even to the disposal of these fuel rods as long as the procedures were under full IAEA inspections.

Over the past few years the Iranians have made a number of offers periodically by claiming they were willing to allow IAEA inspectors and then cancelling or making impossible demands in limiting inspector’s access to return to their denial of inspector access at all; offers to suspend all enrichment only to renege on the offers; offers to ship all uranium enriched beyond 3.5 or 5.0 percent but only if they were to be allowed to continue to enrich to these levels then retracting the offer often without supplying any reasons; and even to allow IAEA inspectors access to the Parchin military base to belie any research of compressions or other nuclear triggers for nuclear devices only to go back on the offer while satellite pictures have witnessed extensive cleaning operations including the destruction of some of the buildings in question. The simple definition of all the concessions made by the Iranians in order to show any inclination of cooperation has been completely absent. Their demands have crept upward always finding a level a few steps beyond whatever the P5+1 have been willing to offer. This has produced a situation where no matter the concession given by the P5+1 the Iranians have also made adjustments in their demands to include the next step up from each offer. This is exactly the same tactic employed by the Palestinians with Israel where they take every single offer voiced by any source plus, at a minimum, a half dozen additional demands in order to prevent any progress always allowing room for concessions not to be sufficient in meeting their demands.

Recently, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave an interview to the Washington Post’s reporter Lally Weymouth. In this interview Ehud Barak related concerning Iran and the negotiations with the P5+1 and related subjects as follows:

“Whoever thinks that it’s complicated to deal with Iran right now, as some think-tank leaders are writing; just close your eyes and think what it will mean to deal with these very same issues once Iran turns nuclear as a result of an absence of political will. It will be much more dangerous, much more costly in terms of human lives and financial resources. And it will become nuclear if the world will not be tough enough to stop it. We always hope it will be solved by the free will of the Ayatollahs, by the effectiveness of the sanctions, by the creativity of diplomacy, or by any other miracle. When we say that we are determined to prevent them, and we should all be determined, including the American leadership, the European leadership, the Russians, the Chinese, we mean what we say and that is all I can say.”

What we find so disturbing about his comments is that they are likely an accurate portrayal of the stand of the world outside of Israel. So, where do we stand now?

We fear that all of the leadership of Europe are in favor of talking, or negotiating if you prefer, until an Iranian nuclear capability has been displayed and then attempting to rely on the MAD deterrent. The one European leader who had taken any form of a strong stand on the Iranian nuclear program was France’s Sarkozy who was recently defeated placing Francois Hollande at the head of France. Thus far Mr. Hollande has said he supports continuing the Sarkozy position on Iran which probably means he supports the P5+1 negotiations which were also supported by Sarkozy, and not so much taking a hard line stand considering any military actions. Both Russia and China have taken a side supporting Iran against pressures from the Western powers, especially concerning sanctions.

This leaves the United States as the sole world power, unless you consider Israel as another world power, which is able to take on sufficient ability to strike Iran and terminate their nuclear program or at least return it to near square one. President Obama has regularly acknowledged the existence of a military response to the Iranian nuclear program as available on the table as the final option and that he will not remove it from the table or from consideration. This claim is almost always followed by the phrase that we must first give the negotiations path every possible chance to work. Many, myself included, believe this actually means that though the military option is on the table, he is want to ever actually take it off the table and implement such a drastic measure. President Obama has also implied in the past that he believes that Iran are reasonable and sane actors and as such would not use nuclear weapons as the resultant counter strike would be more devastating than they would be willing to allow. Unfortunately, such a belief may be Pollyannaish in its nature and just as unreasonable and mistaken. Taking such a position on Iran is deluded and dangerous enough just when considering Iran with nuclear capability, but it becomes so much more dangerous when one adds in the nuclear armament race such would set off in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has already stated their intent to go nuclear capable should Iran become so and have already implemented the starting steps in nuclear research and development with a stated goal of building peaceful nuclear reactors for power generation. Egypt has also stated intent to pursue nuclear capabilities in response to a nuclear armed Iran. This position has been stated by both the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Add Turkey to this mix and do not forget that Israel has already found it necessary to destroy a North Korean designed and built plutonium producing reactor within Syria. These are simply those who have actually come forward and stated their intent should Iran be allowed to successfully produce nuclear weaponry, how many feel the same way but are not willing to go public with their plans. It can only be deduced that allowing Iran to attain nuclear weapons capability would not only be a threat to Israel as the real major result of allowing such would be a completely nuclear armed Middle East within five years with the initial additions to the nuclear family would likely arrive within two years. Some Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia can have a nuclear arsenal for the asking simply by buying their initial weapons. It is little mentioned, but Saudi Arabia has an agreement with Pakistan for them to supply the Saudi Royals with not only a number of their nuclear arsenal but also with the complete plans and necessary centrifuges and other equipment allowing Saudi Arabia to leap quickly into the nuclear club. This silent agreement was made as the Saudi Royals had financed almost all of the Pakistani nuclear program over the initial years. A near completely nuclear Middle East cannot end well, not for the Middle East and not for the whole world. And after the entire Middle East and much of Northern Africa, who else would find it necessary to go nuclear? Brazil? Venezuela? Nicaragua? South Africa for the second time? Exactly who? I, for one, would really not want to find the answer to this question, yet except for Israel I do not see anybody else giving even the slightest credibility to their absolute, do what it takes position towards Iran and their nuclear program. What I do see is Russia giving ominous warnings against any attack upon Iran and a world eager to abide by that warning. One thing we can all be assured of is that should a military method prove the only option in the end, Israel will be scolded and receive shaming blame for overreacting and not having adequate patience allowing diplomacy to work. After all, a diplomatic resolution is simply one more meeting from realization, and it shall always need one more meeting by Iranian calculations.

Beyond the Cusp

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