“We won’t let the Iranians drag out the negotiations, try to deceive us and continue pursuing their nuclear program under cover of the talks in Istanbul.”
This firm pledge was uttered by President Barack Obama in answer to concerns raised by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when they met at the White House on March 5. He went on to outline the conditions the Iranians would be required to meet in the first two months of the talks with the six world powers due to begin in April – or else, he, the US President, would personally cut them short.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Washington itemize Obama’s seven provisos for keeping nuclear negotiations afloat:
1. A halt on uranium enrichment up to 20-percent grade, just short of weapons quality. The president rejected Netanyahu’s demand for Iran to stop enrichment in toto.
2. Shortly after the talks begin, Iran will be asked to sign supplementary protocols of the NPT-The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The signatory must part with substantially more information about its nuclear and nuclear-related activities than Iran has been required to hitherto, including R&D, production of uranium and thorium (regardless of whether it is traded), and nuclear-related imports and exports.
Spot checks by UN inspectors will cut down concealment
International Atomic Energy Agency monitors will have more rights of access to Iran’s nuclear facilities at short notice (two hours). They will be authorized to use environmental sampling and remote monitoring techniques for detecting illicit activities.
Bureaucratic procedures must be streamlined for the automatic renewal of IAEA inspectors’ visas and ease of communications between them and IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
Obama told Netanyahu that these conditions if met by Iran would make it possible for the international inspectors to carry out spot checks and so finally close the “Nuclear Window,” meaning the two-month time lag between visits of inspection, during which Iran has been free to conceal unexplained quantities of enriched uranium and other nuclear weapons development work by whisking them out of sight to secret locations ahead of visits.
3. If Tehran continues to play hide-and-seek with the UN monitors in breach of those protocols, Washington will immediately lay before the public the intelligence it possesses on Tehran’s illicit activities until they are discontinued.
Netanyahu was given a quick demonstration by Washington of the effectiveness of this mechanism.
US spy satellites give the game away at Parchin
On March 7, the day the prime minister arrived home from Washington, a story hitting top headlines quoted “diplomats” in Vienna as disclosing that spy satellite images from the last three days (Sunday-Tuesday, March 4-6) showed trucks and earth-moving vehicles cleaning out the military facility at Parchin of radioactive traces.
Two of the “diplomats” told The Associated Press that those traces could have come from the testing of a small neutron trigger used to set off a nuclear explosion. A third diplomat could not confirm that, but said any testing of a so-called “neutron initiator” at the site could only be in the context of trying to develop nuclear arms.
This disclosure was deeply embarrassing to Tehran coming as it did two days after Iran made the gesture of agreeing to open the site to the UN inspectors.
4. At the start of the talks in Istanbul, Iran will be required to open up to IAEA inspection the Sharif University of Technology-SUT, a high-prestige institution of learning often called “Iran’s MIT.”
The university is located in the Tarsht neighborhood of Tehran and has an international campus in Kish, an offshore island in the Persian Gulf.
US and Israeli intelligence both have amassed data indicating that the university labs in Tehran and Kish are the main centers of Iranian nuclear weapons development activity. Iran will also have to open up other suspect universities as well as industrial and medical research institutes.
No one seriously expects Tehran to toe any lines
5. In April or May at latest, IAEA inspectors must be permitted to interview Prof. Mohssein Fakhrizadeh, “the invisible nuclear physicist,” reputed to head Iran’s nuclear military program. They must also be given access to the 600 nuclear scientists and technicians working under him. This request has been twice denied.
6. Iran must forthwith stop developing a new generation of its IR4 and IR1 centrifuges for speeding up uranium enrichment.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated several times recently that these centrifuges are already working, but his boast was not confirmed by US intelligence.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Washington say President Obama shared with Netanyahu the finding of American intelligence that the first generation of centrifuges, the IP1 models, used in Iran are ageing and will soon reach the end of their operational lifespan. A ban on the use of the more advanced models would effectively bring uranium enrichment in Iran to a close.
7. Iran will be asked to halt the transfer of centrifuges from the enrichment facility at Natanz to the underground facility at Fordow near Qom.
The US president made it clear that Tehran’s default on any of those conditions would effectively halt the Istanbul dialogue.
Since no one believes the Iranians have changed their spots to the point of toeing all seven lines, the Istanbul dialogue is pretty well doomed to failure before it starts, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources.
That is when the military option will be back on the table with greater impetus than ever.