Tehran: West Caving on Iran Nuclear Program
by Steven Emerson
Iranian and United Nations officials claimed to have made progress in negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program on Tuesday. But initial reports have provided little substantive information beyond an announcement that representatives of the Iranian regime and the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will meet again next week in Vienna, Austria.
Iranian officials waxed optimistic, claiming the West is coming to terms with the inevitability of Iran’s nuclear program. In a New York Times interview, Hamidreza Taraghi, an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, bragged that Tehran had managed to skew the current nuclear negotiations in its favor by making uranium enrichment (a potential path to nuclear weapons) a reality that the West cannot stop.
Taraghi told the Times that Iran had convinced the West of the importance of a fatwa against the possession of nuclear weapons that Khamenei issued. Iranian officials emphasized that edict during last month’s negotiations in Istanbul.
American officials countered that they brought up Khamenei’s fatwa in an effort to provide the Iranians a “face-saving” way to reach a compromise. But Iranian negotiators left Istanbul believing they had prevailed. “We have managed to get our rights,” Taraghi said. “All that remains is a debate over the percentage of enrichment.”
That may be posturing. But a new analysis by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests the Islamist regime has good reason to believe it has the upper hand in the nuclear standoff.
The IAEA’s own reports show “that Iran has moved far beyond the point where it lacked the technology base to produce nuclear weapons,” Cordesman writes. “Iran has pursued every major area of nuclear weapons development, (and) has carried out programs that have already given it every component of a weapon except fissile material.” Moreover, “there is strong evidence that it has carried out programs to integrate a nuclear warhead on [to] its missiles.”
Cordesman finds that Iran’s nuclear efforts are diversified and can be concealed from international inspectors. Even if it were to suspend uranium enrichment, Tehran could “pursue nuclear weapons development through a range of compartmented and easily concealable programs without a formal weapons program.”
Even if Tehran agreed to controls on its current enrichment facilities or saw them destroyed in a military strike, it would not necessarily put an end to the regime’s nuclear capability. It “would take an amazing amount of intelligence access to prevent” Iran from creating replacement enrichment facilities if its existing programs were destroyed in bombing raids, Cordesman writes.
In short, “Iran could appear to agree to arms control or appear to have had its programs destroyed and still go on creating better future enrichment capability.”