The second round of talks between the six powers and Iran – this time for a final, comprehensive resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program – opened in Geneva Tuesday, Feb. 18. But first, the Obama administration gave the Israeli government three pledges, debkafile’s Washington and Jerusalem sources reveal. It must be said, however, that none of those pledges is realistic.
One was a commitment to insist on the absolute shutdown of Iran’s underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordo. The second was the conversion of the reactor under construction at Arak from a heavy to a light water plant, in order to preclude the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons; and the third, to place a cap on the low-grade 5-percent enrichment of uranium.
Our Iranian and military sources affirm that there is not the slightest chance of Iran’s negotiators acceding to any of these demands. Its leaders have made it clear that Fordo will not be shut down under any circumstances. They are willing to discuss aspects of production, such as the number of centrifuges used and the purity level of the enriched uranium. But closure is out of the question.
With regard to the Arak reactor, Tehran may consider imposing a ceiling on plutonium production, but no other commitment.
With regard to their stockpiles of enriched uranium, the Iranians are ready to negotiate a limit on quantities, but not the number or types of centrifuges they are allowed to operate. Tehran will thus retain the capacity to go back whenever it chooses to enriching any quantities of enriched uranium it likes.
To preserve this capacity, the Iranian negotiators will reject the Western demand to dismantle the 18,000 new centrifuges already in place in the enrichment chambers (not all of them functioning) and keep only 1,000 of the older IR1 machines.
In view of the long list of rebuffs the six-power negotiators (US, Russia, UK, France, China and Germany) expect from Iran, an aura of gloom enveloped both sides Tuesday as the talks got underway. Western sources called them a “daunting challenge,” while Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commented: “I have said before… I am not optimistic about the negotiations. It will not lead anywhere, but I am not opposed either.”
Answering tough questions on Jan. 20 ahead of the final round ot nuclear talks, US senior negotiator Undersecretary Wendy Sherman assured the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that “there will be an additional step or steps between the Phase 1 deal and the final deal, to bring Iran into compliance with UN Security Council resolutions.”
In other words, the current round is not expected to fulfill its avowed purpose of reaching “a final and comprehensive accord.” The Obama administration is gearing up instead for more interim accords with Iran.
debkafile sees the Sherman comment as giving away Washington’s negotiating tactics with Tehran: The intention is to drag out a final resolution of this irreconcilable issue along the two years remaining of President Barack Obama’s term in office, i.e. up to 2016, and land the decision on how to handle it in the lap of his successor in the White House.
Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has walked in step with Obama on the Iranian nuclear issue since the fall of 2012, when he turned away from his earlier determination to destroy Iran’s nuclear bomb capacity by military force. And of late, he no longer demands the total dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear capability either.
When Netanyahu sits down with Obama at the White House on March 3, he will likely be reduced to calling for a ceiling on the number of operational centrifuges allowed Iran, as a last-ditch effort to delay Iran’s nuclear weapons drive. But both are obviously reconciled to Iran’s rejection of any limitations on its military nuclear capacity, along with the inability of any Western power to impose its will on the Islamic Republic.