No one can say that the warning signs weren’t everywhere.
That is, no one can say that the entire international community wasn’t warned time and again that Iran was playing games and having its way with the P5+1, led by the U.S., in the now twice-extended nuclear talks currently scheduled to end this summer.
According to numerous highly informed experts, despite all the international community’s measures designed to prevent it, Iran will almost certainly attain a capacity before long as a breakout nuclear weapons state.
While the extraordinary barbarity of ISIS in Syria and Iraq has grabbed recent headlines, Iran – a more dangerous threat to international peace and security given its aggressive designs from Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, its terrorist plots in Europe and Asia, and even in the Western Hemisphere (see Argentina) – continues to push ahead with its nuclear program.
A quick review: over a decade ago, after Iran was repeatedly caught cheating on its obligations as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), including developing secret centrifuge sites, the UN Security Council passed a series of six resolutions demanding that Iran stop enriching nuclear fuel or face sanctions. Insisting that it had a “right” of enrichment under the treaty, which it doesn’t, Iran was subjected to Security Council-imposed sanctions.
Iran continued to defy the UN, its nuclear weapons inspectors, and both the U.S. and the EU, which imposed even tougher economic sanctions against Tehran.
Only in November 2013, when these sanctions began to bite, did Iran agree to hold talks with the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany (hence the P5+1) under what was designated the Joint Plan of Action (otherwise called the Geneva Interim Agreement). According to this plan, Iran would roll back its enrichment program in return for limited economic sanctions relief.
However, instead of insisting, as the Security Council resolutions had demanded, that Iran cease all enrichment activities, the P5+1 only required Iran to convert 20 percent-enriched nuclear fuel to five percent but allowed Iran to continue to enrich fuel to this level – thus, in effect, accepting Iran’s “right to enrich” while trying (ineffectually as it turned out) to persuade Iran to diminish its centrifuges from nearly 10,000 to 2,000. Iran insists it will limit only the efficiency, not the number, of its centrifuges – a process that can be quickly reversed.
The interim plan, begun in January 2014, was intended to lead to a comprehensive agreement by July but the deadline was extended first to November and then to June 30, 2015 with a framework agreement to be in place by March.
Almost no one expects this to be met. The options are either a further extension or the America’s acceptance of a bad deal.
Iran is seen, foremost by Israel, as simply playing for time. Leveraging a loophole in the Interim Agreement which allows for research and development “practices,” Iran is reportedly hard at work on advanced centrifuges that can dramatically accelerate the enrichment of nuclear fuel to weapons-grade at a time of Iran’s choosing, thus giving it a relatively quick “breakout” capacity to a nuclear bomb.
Since the Interim Agreement did not address Iran’s nuclear warhead research (made off-limits by Iran to IAEA inspectors) or its ballistic missile development, Tehran has managed to counter interference in its overall nuclear program. Limited sanctions relief is worth several hundred million dollars a month to Iran while it pushes ahead with a nuclear weapons program in which it repeatedly – and disingenuously – denies any interest.
Summing up where things stand, Emily Landau, Israel’s leading expert on arms control, recently wrote: “Negotiations so far show that Iran’s steadfast defiance in resisting any significant concessions with regard to its nuclear program has been met time and again with concessions by the P5+l.”
The “P5+1” might better be seen as a short-hand for the U.S. administration that is dedicated to nuclear negotiations with Iran while it also in effect counts on Tehran to fight ISIS in Iraq — yet a further dangerous development, especially to Israel.