An Israeli expert on nuclear negotiations has raised “serious issues” with the interim deal now being hammered out with Iran that she said would not achieve the goal of freezing Iran’s nuclear program.
“It seems that the draft proposal will include a demand that Iran suspend enrichment to 20 percent, but it seems it will not be required to suspend enrichment to 3.5 percent,” explained Emily Landau, a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. Those are the first two steps to making weapons-grade uranium.
In a conference call organized by The Israel Project, Landau questioned the exemption, saying Iran has no “plausible civilian explanation” for the continued enrichment. And she pointed out that under the deal, Iran would not be prevented from manufacturing new centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
In addition, Landau said international inspectors reported in August that Iran now has 1,000 advanced centrifuges that can spin uranium four to five times faster than conventional centrifuges.
“They are now ready for testing and there is a provision in the agreement that they not be used,” she said. “But it is unclear if they can be tested. If they can be, Iran could move ahead [put the new centrifuges into operation] if a comprehensive deal is not completed.”
Regarding construction of the Arak reactor, which Iran claims is to be used for research and development but critics claim could produce enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons annually, Landau said it is unclear if the deal would require a halt to construction.
“The logic of the interim deal as discussed by the Obama administration is to get some kind of freeze in Iranian nuclear activities for a period of six months in return for the lifting of a limited number of sanctions,” Landau said. “Negotiations could then continue without worrying that the time would be used to advance Iran’s nuclear program.”
But she said the proposed deal has many “serious issues.” For instance, Landau said another Iranian location, Parchin, which Iran said is off-limits to nuclear inspectors because it is a military site, should be on the agenda.
“This is really an important issue that has been on the agenda for two years and there is no mention of it,” she said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reportedly believes the site has been used to test explosive triggers for a nuclear explosion.
Landau took issue also with the proposed preamble to the deal in which it is said that Iran has a “right to uranium enrichment.”
“It should not be there,” she said.
Moments later, Landau said she hopes “Obama is not OK with Iran developing nuclear weapons.” She recalled that Obama has said he is for “prevention, not containment, and I take the president at his word.”
Asked her reaction to the Obama administration’s efforts to convince Congress not to impose more sanctions on Iran, Landau replied: “It is not necessary for more sanctions at this time, but the reaction of the administration is an overreaction.”
On several occasions, Landau said she believes the only reason Iran is at the negotiating table is because the international sanctions it has been enduring are beginning to bite. She scoffed at suggestions that if pressed during negotiations, Iran would “walk away from the table and that could lead to war. … It’s a mistake. Anyone following Iran over the last 10 years saw how Iran doesn’t behave in a crazy, irrational manner.”
“They might be threatening to leave, but the P5+1 [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany] should not have a big fear that the Iranians will suddenly walk away or make a made dash for the bomb,” she insisted.
“It is unfortunate that objections to the draft proposal are being framed as an Israel-specific issue,” Landau added. “These are technical issues that go to the specifics of Iran’s nuclear program. … Why are the negotiators at the table not raising these same concerns? They are not political but technical issues.”