The Obama Administration is hailing the results of yesterday’s meeting in Geneva with representatives of the Islamic Republic:
GENEVA, Oct. 1 — The United States and Iran tentatively stepped back from looming confrontation on Thursday, as the Islamic republic reached an agreement with major powers that would greatly reduce Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium and reset the diplomatic clock for a solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The outcome, which President Obama in Washington called a “constructive beginning,” came after 7 1/2 hours of talks in an 18th-century villa on the outskirts of Geneva that included the highest-level bilateral meeting between the two countries since relations were severed three decades ago after the Iranian revolution. But the difficulties that lie ahead were illustrated when the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, held a triumphant news conference at which he denounced “media terrorism,” insisted that Iran has always fully met its international commitments, and refused even to acknowledge a question from an Israeli reporter.
The sudden show of cooperation by Tehran reduces for now the threat of additional sanctions, which has been made repeatedly by the United States and others over the past week after the revelation of a secret Iranian nuclear facility. The United States will need to keep the pressure on Iran to avoid being dragged into a process without end.
Under the tentative deal, Iran would give up most of its enriched uranium to Russia in order for it to be converted into desperately needed material for a medical research reactor in Tehran. Iran also agreed to let international inspectors visit the newly disclosed uranium-enrichment facility in Qom within two weeks, and then to attend another meeting with negotiators from the major powers by the end of the month. The series of agreements struck at the meeting was in itself unusual because, in the past, the Iranian negotiators have said they would get back with an answer — and then fail to do so.
Sounds good on paper, huh ?
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency won’t find anything incriminating at the Qom facility. Having lied about it for years, the Iranians now have plenty of time to clean the place out. Iran’s experience with the IAEA goes back to the first inspections starting in 1992, which somehow prevented the world from learning about Iran’s bomb program for a decade and then only from an Iranian dissident group.
And Ed Morrissey notes that the enrichment concession only makes sense if you trust the Iranians:
If you believe that Iran only has 1,500 kg or so of low-enriched uranium on hand and if you believe there are no other secret Iranian enrichment/weaponization sites, then this is important. Remember, uranium isn’t bomb-capable unless it’s highly enriched, i.e. up to a 90 percent level; if Iran’s serious about wanting nuclear power but not a nuclear weapon, then its uranium only has to be enriched to a low level to be converted into fuel. Having Russia or some other third party take over enrichment duties is a way to make sure that the uranium is only processed to that lower threshold, not the higher one (unless, of course, you think Vladimir Putin would lie). If you don’t believe either of those things, though, then this logic goes out the window: Iran could simply feed Russia some low enriched uranium in order to soothe western fears about its nuke program while continuing to weaponize uranium in its secret facilities. Even if Iran’s on the level and is willing to send its entire current uranium stockpile to an outside party for processing, the machinery to weaponize uranium would still remain in place, ready and willing to go whenever Tehran decides to restart the program. In other words, unless Iran is willing to either disclose its remaining secret sites or agree to “very intrusive inspections” to determine whether any secret sites exist or not, then at best this is simply buying time.
All of this reminds me of North Korea. Back in 1994, the United States confronted the North Koreans over their nuclear program. A confrontation seemed inevitable until Jimmy Carter traveled to Pyongyang and returned with what became the 1994 Agreed Framework, under which the NoKo’s allegedly agreed to end it’s quest for enriched uranium that would be used in nuclear weapons. In reality, of course, that program continued in secret until it officially broke down in 2002 and, within a few short years, it was apparent that North Korea had at least a small stockpile of nuclear weapons.
That’s exactly what one can foresee happening in Iran.