Having run out of fallback positions from failed diplomacy, some Western powers are clinging to the prospect of tough sanctions going into effect on July 1 for bringing Iran to heel. However, sanctions have as little chance of working as direct negotiations.
It must now be obvious even to the most fervent pro-diplomacy, anti-war optimists that the nuclear negotiating track between the six world powers (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) and Iran has run its course. And Tehran is too far advanced towards its goal of a nuclear weapon to be diverted by any new sanctions, however painful.
The Moscow talks took place on June 18-19 notwithstanding all the negative landmarks along the way. The next meeting on July 3 in Istanbul is sharply demoted to technicians, as the coordinator of the talks, the European Union’s Foreign Policy Coordinator Catherine Ashton had to admit, confirming that senior negotiators had nothing left to discuss with Tehran.
Iran’s Saeed Jalili was on the offensive from the start of the process. He demanded recognition of Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and the lifting of sanctions in return for Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Agency in Vienna.
Iran has lost its fear of a military strike
In Moscow, his delegation kept on changing the subject to divert attention from its controversial nuclear projects. The meeting, said the Iranians, had better focus on the world campaign against narcotics and such regional issues such as Syria and Bahrain. When pinned down, they flatly rejected the P5+1 group’s demand to halt production of 20 percent enriched uranium, shut the Fordo underground advanced enrichment facility down or transfer highly-enriched uranium out of the country.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call for Iran to come to the Moscow talks with “concrete steps” for halting 20 percent uranium enrichment was simply ignored.
Indeed, Iranian officials flatly refused for the first time to remove a single gram of enriched uranium out of the country. They also rejected a Western proposal to receive in return for exported enriched uranium nuclear plates, from which it is hard to produce fissile material for bomb-making.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources add that the day after the Moscow session fizzled, it was discovered that the Iranian delegation had arrived with the sole intention of derailing it.
This guideline was grounded in the conclusion reached by their leaders in Tehran that the danger of President Barack Obama ordering a military attack before the US presidential election in November had dropped to nil. Iran had therefore won another six months free and clear to enrich as much uranium as it wanted and press forward undisturbed with its planned nuclear weapons program.
Solo Chinese performance
Intelligence experts were taken aback by the surprise appearance at the Moscow talks of China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu as delegation head. Seemingly by prior arrangement with Moscow and Tehran, Ma took up much of the deliberations with a long rant against Ashton who sat at the head of the table. The Russian delegate made a show of trying to quiet him down by mediating between him and Ashton – without success.
The Chinese official had apparently staged a filibuster coordinated with Moscow to throw the talks off track.
(See the article in this issue on Vladimir Putin’s talks in Beijing.)
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources sum up the situation at Iran’s nuclear program:
The production of uranium enriched to 20 percent refinement has never stopped for a moment.
Some 10,000 centrifuges spinning at Natanz and Fordo are producing a whopping eight kilograms of enriched uranium a day. Enough has been accumulated for five nuclear bombs.
Unless stopped, Iran will by December have enough enriched uranium for seven or eight nuclear bombs – even without taking into account a clandestine weapons track never exposed to IAEA inspection, which the Obama administration has been keeping quiet so as not to sabotage the dialogue with Iran.
In two or three months, Tehran would therefore be able to enrich uranium up to 90 percent or weapons grade. Even without assembling a nuclear bomb or warhead, Iran would have several radioactive bombs ready for operation by the end of 2012.
An Iranian agent is snapping up plutonium
And that is not all, according to information, which Saudi intelligence chose to leak on the day nuclear negotiations resumed in Moscow:
In the last few months the “Commonwealth of Independent States” – including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine – managed to secretly contact an Iranian agent with the purpose of selling plutonium at the price of $2 million per kilogram. Iran requires only 6 kilograms of plutonium for a nuclear weapon although a nuclear expert claimed that a nuclear bomb could be manufactured with even less. This Iranian expert is well known in the arena of nuclear proliferation and he has close connections all across Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey.
According to the Saudi source, samples were recently sent to Iran for testing.
This means one thing: An Iranian agent managed to acquire military-grade plutonium and must be presumed to have put it in the hands of Iranian officials. Tehran is therefore running a clandestine alternative nuclear program, never raised by the West at the various nuclear forums including IAEA board meetings in Vienna, for shortening the road to a plutonium-fueled nuclear weapon.
Tehran can well afford to pay $12 million for the six kilograms needed to build a nuclear weapon.
Military force in Syria would be a preliminary to action against Iran
Iran’s hell-bent progress towards attaining a nuclear weapon while pretending to negotiate with the world powers poses some hard questions for President Obama and Israel’s leaders.
What has become of the solemn vows that Washington would not again fall into the trap of talks with Iran to no purpose? What of the assurance that the US would not engage in talks for the sake of talks?
And what happened to the argument heard from Israeli leaders at the beginning of this year that the window of opportunity for destroying Iran’s nuclear capabilities by military action was closing fast and “immunity zones” would very soon place its nuclear facilities out of reach?
Tuesday, June 19, Dennis Ross, who briefly served as President Obama’s adviser on Iran, said: “This approach to diplomacy is not open-ended; at some point we (the US) will call a halt to it. They [should] understand that if [they] adopt a posture where they just keep talking and there are no results, that sooner or later that is not going to be the case. And when it is not the case they are subjecting themselves to other means, including the use of force.”
But the decision to use military force against Iran rests with one man, Barack Obama. As long as he refuses to show a green light – even for limited military action Syria – this decision is not anticipated, although US forces already in the Gulf are extensive enough and sufficiently prepared for this mission.
A decision by the president to intervene directly against the violence in Syria would open the door for a military operation in Iran as well.