The first preliminary nuclear deal the six world powers (US, Russia, China, UK, France and German) signed with Iran before dawn Sunday, Nov. 24, at the end of a four-day marathon, failed to address the most questionable aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, i.e. its clandestine military dimensions. The accord confined itself to aspects of uranium enrichment and stockpiles. UN inspections were expanded – but not applied, for instance, to Iran’s concealed nuclear sites – or even the Parchin military base where Iran is suspected of having tested nuclear-related explosions.
Israel, the Gulf States and others are therefore highly dubious of the deal’s capacity for freezing Iran’s nuclear program where it stands today, least of all roll it back, as President Barack Obama claimed.
debkafile’s intelligence and military sources list seven of the most glaring loopholes in the first-step accord:
1. Parchin: This long-suspected facility remains out of UN oversight. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry boasted after the signing that daily IAEA inspections will take place at Fordo and Natanz. However, cameras are already fixed at both those facilities without an agreement, whereas Tehran’s consistent denial of IAEA access to Parchin is not addrfessed.
2. Secret nuclear locations: Under the heading "Possible Military Dimensions," the last IAEA report noted: "Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related organizations, including activities related to the development of a payload for a missile.”
The watchdog has received information indicating activities "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." This was further corroborated by new information obtained since November 2011.
Tehran’s non-cooperation for investigating these findings is not mentioned in the Geneva interim accord, nor was it addressed in the negotiations.
3. Dirty bombs: Iran doesn’t need a full-scale nuclear bomb or missile warhead for attacking Israel. For decades, Tehran has been working on perfecting hundreds of dirty bombs as part of its nuclear program, by adding plutonium or enriched uranium to conventional bombs. These weapons are easy to make and easy to use. In the hands of Hizballah or other Shiite terrorist organizations in Syria or Iraq, for instance, they could be used to strike Israel without leaving a trail to Tehran.
This peril too was ignored by the six powers in Geneva.
4. Rollback. While President Obama has presented the deal as a first step toward freezing or even rolling back “key aspects” of Iran’s nuclear program. The fact remains that, so long as Iran is permitted to enrich uranium, even though this is restricted to a low 5 percent grade, it is free to produce as much fissile material as it wants, whenever it wants. This seems more like roll forward than roll back.
5. Enrichment. Obama and Kerry said the new deal does not recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium. They were contradicted by the Iranian president and senior negotiator as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. So what is the truth? If Iran won recognition for this right, it blows the bottom out of the Non-Proliferating Treaty because, in no time, all the signatories may start enriching uranium with permission from the big powers. Neither is there any point in making Iran join the NPT’s Additional Protocol for snap inspections.
6. Centrifuges. Iran has undertaken not to add new centrifuges to its enrichment facilities, according to President Obama, but there is nothing to stop it from keeping up their production. In the six-month interregnum for negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal, Tehran wins time to turn out enough centrifuges to substantially expand its production of enriched uranium.
9. A leap to breakout: Far from being static or in freeze, as the Americans claim, Iran is free to step up centrifuge production and boost its stock of 3.5 percent enriched uranium, thereby accumulating enough material to enhance its capacity for producing enough weapons-grade uranium to break through to a nuclear bomb rapidly enough to defy detection by the IAEA or Western intelligence until it is too late.
The first loophole appeared hours after the new accord was signed:
Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, announced that his country’s enrichment rights had been recognized in the negotiations, after which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani praised the supreme leader’s guidelines for achieving world power recognition of Tehran's “nuclear rights.”
However, Secretary of State John Kerry in his first appearance after the signing denied this concession had been made. He said: “The first step, let me be clear, does not say that Iran has a right to enrich uranium."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lined up solidly behind the Iranian version of the accord, confirming world recognition had been extended for Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy, including the right for enrichment.
Out of step with the celebratory mood in Geneva and Washington, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that the deal would not impede Iran’s capacity to gain a nuclear weapon. He challenged President Obama’s words that the deal was a historic achievement and called it a historic mistake, which would not obligate Israel. Israel, he said stood by its right to self defense against a regime dedicated to its destruction. As prime minister, Netanyahu pledged not to allow Iran to procure a nuclear weapon.
President Obama also announced that key aspects of Iran’s nuclear program will be “rolled back” against limited sanctions relief and the release of deposits (nettng Iran $6-7 billion in revenue.) He said that no new centrifuges would be activated for the enrichment process, work would stop at the Arak heavy water reactor and UN inspections expanded to daily visits at the Natanz and Fordo enrichment plants to ensure that uranium is not enriched above the 5 percent permitted by the accord.
The core sanctions architecture will remain in place, Obama promised, pending a comprehensive solution to be negotiated in the next six months, but no new sanctions would be imposed.
Lavrov summed up the four-day conference by saying: "Considering the whole body of circumstance, there are no losers [in the Geneva deal], all sides are winners” – a view seriously challenged by Israel, Saudi Arabia and most other Middle East governments.