P5+1 not likely to prevail in Geneva

Granting Iran the ‘right to enrich uranium’ is in effect granting Iran the right to build a nuclear weapon.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

You would have thought that in the negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the P5+1 team held all the cards. The economically most powerful nations of the world, including the world’s superpower, the United States, faced Iran, an almost bankrupt country crushed under the sanctions imposed over the past few years.

The P5+1 team was led by Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, and the Iranians were led by Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister. At this point it sure looks like Zarif has gotten the better of Lady Ashton. She’s evidently no match for him. So far it’s 1:0 in favor of Iran.

You might say we should look behind the scenes if we want to know what really happened. It wasn’t Lady Ashton calling the shots, it was the man in the White House, Barack Obama. And for the Iranians, Zarif, no amateur negotiator himself, was taking his orders from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei back in Tehran. The negotiations in Geneva were really negotiations between Washington and Tehran.

Washington’s declared objective is to keep Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. That presumably is the objective of everyone else taking part in the negotiations with Iran. It’s also Israel’s objective.

That Iran had been making great efforts these past years to obtain nuclear weapons has been clear to all, despite Iran’s denials. This has been demonstrated by the batteries of centrifuges for enriching uranium assembled in Iran, both above and below ground. It’s a nuclear infrastructure built at tremendous cost. Dismantling this infrastructure is required to keep Iran from making a nuclear weapon. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to understand that.

There are three ways to dismantle the centrifuges: destroying them by military means, getting the Iranians to dismantle them to gain relief from the economic sanctions, or obtaining Iran’s consent to do so through diplomatic negotiations. There have been repeated hints that the military option might be exercised by the United States and/or Israel. This threat, and economic sanctions that have been ratcheted up in recent years, have brought the Iranians to the negotiating table. Now we will see if the objective can be obtained by the negotiations in Geneva – though by the looks of it, this won’t happen.

Instead of demanding that the Iranians begin a process of dismantling their centrifuges, the P5+1 suggested that Iran agree not to expand its “nuclear activity.” In effect, the P5+1 agreed to Iran’s claim that it has a “right to enrich uranium on its territory” and ignored that Iran already has the capability to attain the ingredients required for a nuclear weapon, with the facilities already in existence.

Again, the alternative to a military strike destroying the centrifuges is an Iranian agreement to begin the dismantlement. Nothing can substitute for that. Granting Iran the “right to enrich uranium” is in effect granting Iran the right to build a nuclear weapon.

Here lies the disagreement between the United States and Israel. We have the same goal but differ on how to achieve it. There’s no reason to suggest that Israel keep its opinion to itself. Quite the contrary, it’s important that Israel attempt to correct the direction in which the negotiations are proceeding. And it’s no wonder that many in the United States, not only Republicans, share Israel’s view.

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